Texas Gov. Rick Perry last week signed a safety law long sought by unions to protect train crews who are transported by vans between job sites.
The law requires contract carriers to screen van drivers for drug and alcohol use and to maintain at least $1.5 million in liability insurance.
It was a response to an August 2005 traffic accident that killed one BNSF Railway crew member and permanently disabled two others.
The contract van driver later tested positive for methamphetamines. The van he was driving carried a maximum of $55,000 in liability insurance.
The Railroad Limo Safety Improvement Act, which takes effect Sept. 1, imposes the new safety regulations on contract carriers of railroad operating crews in vehicles of up to eight passengers. Vehicles that carry more than eight passengers already are covered by other laws that require drug testing and minimum insurance limits.
The drug and alcohol tests under the new law are required before drivers are hired, after they are involved in accidents and at random times throughout their employment.
The Texas Department of Transportation is required to inform railroads and their contract carriers about their rights and duties under the new law.
Contract carriers transport train crews about 30 million miles per year in Texas, either between terminals or to and from trains, according to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
Union leaders have urged other states to adopt similar safety laws regulating contract carriers.
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