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Wed, Aug 25, 2004

Small Business Administration To FAA: Do Your Homework

Says Mandatory Drug/Alcohol Testing Will Drag Small Shops Under

The Federal Aviation Administration "lacks a factual basis" to support the expansion of substance abuse testing, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Under the FAA's proposed rule, thousands of metal finishers, machine shops, dry cleaners and other small businesses would have to perform mandatory alcohol and drug testing of employees if they perform maintenance, even as subcontractors, for a commercial air carrier, no matter how far removed contractually from the air carrier they may be.

The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) and 13 other major aviation industry associations and companies oppose the proposal. In Joint Industry Comments filed with the FAA on August 16, ARSA explained how the rule will raise costs -- driving many of their members' subcontractors to decline aviation-related work.

"In many industries, a cost impact of one percent of revenues would be significant considering that profit margins may be five percent of revenues or less," according to the SBA Office of Advocacy in its FAA comments.

ARSA member companies are subject to stringent substance abuse testing requirements. As FAA-certificated facilities, they are responsible for the airworthiness of the aircraft and components they and their subcontractors service. The aviation industry has consistently maintained that imposing substance abuse testing on non-certificated subcontractors is costly, intrusive and unnecessary for safety.

"The requirement that lower tier contractors who perform safety sensitive repairs to components have alcohol and drug testing programs reaches well beyond repair stations and their contractors to include suppliers, parts refurbishers and parts brokers within the scope of the rule," the SBA said.

The FAA's proposal lacks objective data on the actual number of small entities affected by the rule, according to the SBA comments. The agency urged the FAA to perform a thorough regulatory flexibility analysis, solicit data from the public, and consider alternatives to minimize the impact on small entities, before proceeding with a final rule.

ARSA and its industry partners say they will continue to promote alternatives to this costly and ill-researched proposal.



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