NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A top state lawmaker said Wednesday he will push for a vote this week on legislation that would prevent engineers from operating trains if their driver's licenses are revoked or suspended for drunken driving violations.
The move came after a TV station's investigation revealed that New Jersey Transit engineer Thomas Broschart has been operating commuter trains despite losing his license to drive a car for 10 years for repeated drunken driving.
WABC-TV in New York reported Broschart's license was suspended in 2007 and he isn't legally allowed to drive a car. It also reported that Broschart's license was suspended for two years in 1995 because he refused to have his blood-alcohol level tested.
Broschart's license also was suspended two other times, once for driving while intoxicated and once for not complying with a mandatory alcohol program, the station reported.
NJ Transit has said that rules governing engineers were strictly followed in Broschart's case and that he is certified to operate locomotives under federal law. Broschart told the station that having a driver's license "has nothing to do" with operating a train.
But state Senate President Steve Sweeney said that shouldn't be allowed.
"A suspended driver's license for DUI should be an immediate exclusion for operating passenger trains," Sweeney said Wednesday. "If they can't be trusted to get behind the wheel of a car, they shouldn't be at the controls of locomotives carrying thousands of people every day."
The Democrat said in an emailed statement that he would introduce the legislation Thursday and seek a vote immediately.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez's office also has been in contact with NJ Transit and with state legislators to examine state and federal laws governing engineer certification.
According to federal law, a railroad can consider a prospective engineer's driving record during the certification process but not "information concerning motor vehicle driving incidents that occurred more than 36 months before the month in which the railroad is making its certification decision."
It wasn't immediately clear when Broschart was hired by NJ Transit.
An NJ Transit spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday on the proposed legislation. The agency has said it favors strengthening federal rules.
NJ Transit is the nation's third-largest provider of bus, rail and light rail service and operates 236 bus routes and 12 rail lines.