This past Thursday morning Metrolinx received a call from a concerned passenger on a Go bus route who felt there may be an issue with their bus driver’s ability to drive safely. Due to the concerned passenger’s call, Metrolinx removed the driver from service when the bus reached the York Mills Station.
When the driver was tested after being removed from the vehicle, he tested positive for alcohol. After failing the test, the driver (who has been with the company since 1989) was removed from duty pending further investigation by Metrolinx.
Metrolinx implemented their newly expanded ‘Fit for Duty’ policy in Sept. 2018 which included new drug and alcohol standards and testing. However, the updated policy did not include random testing, only testing if a critical incident were to take place or if there was reasonable suspicion of an employee, being “unfit for duty” in a safety-sensitive position. This was in contrast to the then newly released updated policy from the Toronto Transit Commission which did include random testing of their transit employees.
“Our drivers are extremely dedicated, responsible and trustworthy employees. This is a rare and very disappointing occurrence, which will be fully investigated. We want to assure our customers that every employee has a responsibility to safeguard the trust and safety of the public in attending work fit for duty—without fail,”Metrolinx CEO Phil Vester, with regard to Thursday’s incident.
The Metrolinx policy states that employees must be able to “safely and acceptably perform assigned duties without limitations resulting from (but not limited to) alcohol, drugs, and/or medications; the misuse or failure to take medications as directed; and/or extreme fatigue.”
The CEO of Metrolinx, Phil Verster, said at the time of the policy release that their policy was not meant to “catch people” and this is why they had chosen not to include the random testing in the same way that the TTC had.
“The Metrolinx policy is not random testing; however, random testing is the future for all transit operations and where the TTC is today is a really strong and positive place,” Verster said in an interview with CTV News Toronto in September of 2018. The strategy seemed to play out for the TTC when, in the first 6 months of random testing (reported in Nov. 2017), they had 22 employee’s fail testing out of the 1,269 employees who were randomly tested. At that time the TTC CEO Andy Byford admitted it was not a “huge amount”, but pointed out that any amount of employee’s unfit to drive and working in “safety critical roles” was too many.
One wonders if Metrolinx will look to the TTC’s data and take into consideration this incident when assessing the effectiveness of their current policy without random testing.