Canadian transport looks at drug testing program options

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau has announced that the government is now actively working on a policy to address the muddy waters of workplace cannabis impairment, with the creation of a drug testing program, and has sent a letter to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the Railway Association of Canada, and the Canadian Urban Transit Association in an attempt to allay concerns over the absence of legislation regarding the use of cannabis by workers in safety-sensitive positions.

“This is a complicated issue involving multiple departments and legal matters. The policy direction outlined by the minister is sound and CTA looks forward to working with Transport Canada to ensure that our industry’s concerns are taken into consideration…CTA’s goal is to see the eventual introduction of mandatory drug and alcohol testing for commercial truck drivers in Canada.” CTA President Stephen Laskowski

Garneau has said that the scope of the problem is being reviewed, as well as information regarding the frequency of impairment and its impact among transportation workers. Garneau’s team will be assessing the approaches of other countries dealing with similar legislation, with attention paid to privacy and human rights concerns as well as to the potential cost of any proposed impairment management policy.

The CTA has stated that it wants to ensure that commercial drivers remain the safest operators on the road. Garneau also spoke specifically to the need for a support system for those who do have drug and/or alcohol abuse problems stating “…discussions will include the need, design, and depth of a comprehensive substance abuse program.” This is in keeping with the trend within Canada to not only work to identify those who have drug and alcohol issues to keep them out of safety sensitive positions, but also to give them the opportunity to get help to overcome their substance abuse issue, rather than just taking jobs away and leaving the affected person to fend for themselves.

Many transport drivers are already required to do drug and alcohol testing due to their driving range taking them into the United States. The US has numerous federal bodies who dictate the requirements for drug and alcohol testing, the main one being the Department of Transportation. Within the US all transport drivers are required to be a part of a drug and alcohol testing program and those Canadian drivers who go into the US must also follow these regulations as they are laid out in their regulatory manual, the Code of Federal Regulations (the CFR). In Canada testing done under the American regulations, for drivers who go into the USA, is referred to as DOT testing and must adhere to the very stringent and specific rules as laid out in the CFR.

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