NEW JERSEY (WABC) --The backlash following an exclusive Eyewitness News investigation into a NJ Transit train engineer who has a suspended license for multiple drunk driving offenses continued Friday.
One day after the state senate unanimously passed legislation that would prevent engineers from operating trains if their driver's licenses are revoked or suspended for drunken driving violations, New Jersey Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker took action on the federal level.
The Eyewitness News Investigators found that Thomas Broschart has been operating commuter trains despite losing his license for 10 years for repeated DWI violations, and that after he was done a shift, he needed someone to pick him up and drive him home.
By Friday, Broschart was no longer operating a locomotive.
"This situation was flatly unacceptable and outrageous," Booker said.
Both Senators made it clear they believe NJ Transit has and had the authority and the responsibility to take Broschart out of the train control cab.
"It's just not worth the risk," Menendez said. "This is common sense."
But New Jersey Transit says federal regulations tie their hands when it comes to re-certifying engineers who lose their licenses to drive a car because of DWI. The rule states if the person is evaluated as not currently having a substance abuse problem, then the loss of a driver's license shall not be considered with respect to certification. Menendez called it a loophole they're going to close.
"New Jersey Transit or any other transit system can set higher standard and should set higher standard," he said. "And in the absence of them doing so, there will be state and federal legislation that sets that standard for them."
Earlier this month, the NTSB determined that a distracted engineer played a key role in last year's deadly Amtrak derailment, and in 2013, an engineer's sleep apnea was to blame for a Metro-North derailment that killed four passengers. While alcohol wasn't involved, it underscores how split-second distractions can cost lives and might explain why lawmakers on both the federal and state level are acting so quickly.
"When I saw that report, I was taken aback," Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti said. "It's basic common sense. If you are not able to operate your car, you should not be entrusted with the safety and lives of thousands of New Jersey residents every day."