The Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) announced last week that it is considering expanding its current drug and alcohol testing regulations to require testing of certain foreign repair and maintenance workers performing work for U.S. air carriers.

While the FAA has long required random drug and alcohol testing of workers responsible for maintaining and repairing aircrafts within the United States, it has never extended those provisions to cover foreign personnel.  According to the FAA, there are approximately 120 foreign repair shops responsible for repairing and maintaining planes flown by American carriers.

Enacting and enforcing a drug and alcohol testing program for foreign workers will not be a simple task, as any testing program would need to comply with both current FAA standards and the laws of the country where the repair shop is located.  If the FAA does move forward, it warned there could be “significant logistical issues and conflicts with local laws”  and “potentially significant costs [for the] industry.”

The FAA published its Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking — a public notice issued by law when a federal agency is considering altering its rules or regulations — on March 13, 2014.  The Advanced Notice requests comments from the public (including interested foreign governments) to help inform the FAA’s “development of a proposed rule and the analysis of its economic impact.”  While the FAA welcomes all relevant information, the agency specifically is seeking information on, among other issues, which drugs are most “pervasively misused” in different countries; whether foreign countries have testing programs and, if so, whether they are administered by a national regulatory authority; whether any foreign law forbids random drug testing; and, how employers in foreign countries are able to confirm a positive drug or alcohol test.

The comment period ends on May 12, 2014.  A complete copy of the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be found here.