Random drug-testing is becoming more common among fleets, as managers realise that unless they take a zero-tolerance approach, it is tantamount to having no policy.
Last year’s review into drink and drug-driving by Sir Peter North brought the dangers of drug-impaired drivers to the forefront of Government and corporate thinking.
The Government is in the process of looking at introducing a new drug-driving offence, alongside existing laws (Fleet News, January 19), a move that was backed by 86% of fleets in a recent Fleet News poll.
The Department for Transport (DfT) says the new offence “would relieve the need for the police to prove impairment case-by-case where a specified drug has been detected”.
Companies are well advised to have a clear drink and drugs policy, which is backed up by staff education and clear consequences should anyone flout the policy.
A lack of a policy could be interpreted as negligence in the event of a collision.
Logistics firm Suckling Transport, which operates a 60-strong fleet in the UK, has a contract with Synergy Health Lab Services for random and ‘with-cause’ testing. With-cause is defined as any road traffic incident which causes risk to the public, the vehicle or its load.
Any driver involved in a collision is tested at the roadside, while Synergy also sends testers into company premises on a random basis to test a proportion of the workforce, including managers.
“We’ve never had a positive result,” said Peter Larner, managing director of Suckling Transport. “This gives us assurance that the policy works. It would be a waste of time to have the policy but never ensure it was complied with.”
National Express also operates a robust random drugs test policy for every member of staff.
This backs up a strict alcohol and drugs policy across all its vehicles, with coaches fitted with Alcolock technology. These ensure drivers have to pass an alcohol test that is a third of the legal limit before vehicles will start.
Arriva, Stagecoach and Fowler Welch Coolchain use DTec International’s Drugwipe Dual system.
Many of the fleets that undertake drug testing have never had a positive result, but whether this is due to employee awareness that they will be tested, or suggests there is not a significant problem in fleets, is a moot point.
According to an NHS report, in 2009/10, 8.6% of adults had used one or more illicit drugs within the last year, while 3.1% had used Class A drugs and 20% of young adults (16 to 24-year-olds) had used illicit drugs.
Overall use is decreasing, but it is still significant if extrapolated into the workplace.
“All drugs have an impairing effect even after 10 hours,” said Gareth Salisbury, UK sales manager at DTec.
Policy infringements do not have to result in dismissal – firms are encouraged to take a sympathetic and treatment-based view of drug use. However, they have a duty of care to restrict users’ work for safety until they are clean.