Police warn trucking over drugs

NSW Police makes “no apologies” for targeting trucking in the wake of a drug blitz where 14 drivers tested positive

September 7, 2010

NSW Police has issued a warning to the trucking industry in the wake of a heavy vehicle drug blitz last week.

Fourteen truckies tested positive to drugs during the three-day blitz at the Marulan heavy vehicle weigh station on the Hume Highway between Wednesday and Friday last week.

Police Minister Michael Daley says 1375 truck drivers were tested for amphetamines and cannabis, meaning about 1 percent returned a positive result.

"We make no apologies for targeting these heavy vehicle drivers. The onus is on them to act and drive responsibly," Goulburn Police acting superintendent Evan Quarmby says.

"These drivers are controlling a piece of machinery more than 10 times the size of the average family car, while under the influence of mind-altering drugs."

Despite the low percentage of drivers testing positive, Quarmby labelled the results a major concern.

Daley has warned the industry illicit drugs will not be tolerated, adding that drivers in five of the 14 cases tested positive to a combination of amphetamines and cannabis.

"Police concentrate their roadside drug testing activities in areas where a high incidence of drug driving may be likely, such as the streets surrounding entertainment precincts or large dance parties, or they may test truck drivers stopping at heavy vehicle checking stations," Daley says.

Drivers who tested positive were immediately issued a notice banning them from driving for 24 hours. Samples have been sent to a laboratory for tests to confirm the results, which will be known between four and six weeks.

Charges will then be laid against those whose results for confirmed.

However, the Transport Workers Union wants police to direct their efforts beyond targeting drivers.

TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon says the delivery schedules of clients should be investigated to determine if drivers were forced to use drugs as a result of pressure to meet deadlines.

"Targeting drivers is only getting the tail of the lion. It is the head of the beast that makes all the decisions and decides where the pressure is placed, and until government authorities are serious about enforcing this system – we will see more accidents on our roads," he says.

"Some drivers might break fatigue laws, others take drugs. At the end of the day, it cannot be condoned. But if the client sets up a system where the driver has to go hard or be fined by the client for missing a loading spot, then drivers are going to be pressured."

Sheldon says drivers are telling the TWU of how economically tough the industry is at the moment.

"When drivers are talking like that, you know that they are financially pressured to make ends meet and some can end up making poor decisions in order to break even," he says.

Sheldon also reiterated the need for an overhaul to pay rates, saying it is essential to ensure drivers receive adequate cost recovery so they are not forced to break laws to make ends meet.

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