Police on the beat as drug use increases in trucking

Cowboy operators told to "watch out" as police notice increase in drug use in heavy vehicle sector

Police on the beat as drug use increases in trucking
Police on the beat as drug use increases in trucking
From left to right: Superintendent Neville Taylor, VicRoads Director of Road User Services Dean Zabrieszach, VTA CEO Phil Lovel, WorkSafe General Operations Manager Lisa Sturzenegger and Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe.

Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | May 2, 2012

One in eight truck drivers tested positive to drugs in the past year, according to recent research by Victoria Police’s heavy vehicle unit.

Road Policing Superintendent Neville Taylor says the trend is increasing and the police, together with VicRoads and WorkSafe, will be targeting those who break the law during this month’s campaign to improve heavy vehicle safety.

He says there is increasing use of amphetamines and cannabis, along with other substances to help truckies work longer hours and drive greater distances. But Taylor points out it is only a minority of drivers affecting the image of the whole of the industry.

"We know that one of the issues we really have to focus on is impaired drivers in the heavy vehicle industry," Taylor says.

"It’s like road trauma, it’s the minority that causes us all the grief and we know that the industry generally don’t want those people in the industry."

Taylor cites improvements in drug-detection technology as a reason why more drug-drivers are being caught out.

Deputy Commissioner Kieran Walshe says there will be more city patrols on Melbourne’s highways and freeways to catch those breaking the law.

The police are also working closely together with law enforcement agencies from other states under the Australian and New Zealand Road Policing Forum to catch rogue drivers.

"We know that there are road transport operators across the eastern seaboard and we work together to make sure we share information so we can target and make sure collectively we are achieving the right things and trying to identify and get the evidence to prosecute," Walshe says.

Taylor credits recent actions by NSW authorities against Lennons Transport Services and Scott’s of Mt Gambier for raising awareness about safety in the heavy vehicle industry.

"What I have observed is that there is a whole lot of debate around those issues and that’s very positive," he says.

Victorian Transport Association CEO Phil Lovel says the industry takes safety very seriously.

"Truck drivers are family men," he says. "It’s their workplace and they are keen for us to do something across the industry. Any cowboys out there, watch out. The police are out for you."

Operation Austrans, which focuses on heavy vehicles and started yesterday, will target fatigue, speeding, drug use and other driver behaviour issues on major highways connecting Victoria with the country’s capital cities.

"After every operation, the police meet with us and talk about the issues and what they have found," Lovel says.

"We identify those companies and try to work with them."

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