Drugged-up drivers rife in truck industry
Drugged-up truck drivers are putting lives at risk and Palmerston North MP Iain Lees-Galloway is calling for urgent action.
Mr Lees-Galloway, Labour's spokesman for transport safety, said drug use, particularly of methamphetamines and other stimulants, was rife in the heavy vehicle industry.
The revelation was uncovered by Operation Austrans – a multi-agency Australasian enforcement operation targeting fatigue, drug use and other road safety problems in the heavy vehicle sector.
"The reason for this is clear," Mr Lees-Galloway said.
"Drivers under pressure to meet extreme deadlines use whatever means they can to stay awake longer and drive further to make sure they hit their targets. Some resort to drug use to keep them going.
"The Government should hold an open inquiry into the causes of drug use in the transport industry.
"Contract rates, wages, time pressures and industry culture should all be among the issues the Government examines."
Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency chief executive Jon White is dismayed at the high number of drivers apprehended for drug-driving.
Drug abuse by drivers appeared to be influenced by tight deadlines and stiff competition, he said.
"One of the biggest risks for heavy vehicle drivers is fatigue. Some drivers are still resorting to using drugs in order to cover long distances in as short a time as possible.
"In an industry where if you're late you could lose the next job or possibly your employment – some drivers feel they have to use stimulants to be able to meet deadlines," Mr White said.
Taking drugs, such as methamphetamines, affects drivers' physical skills such as reaction times, co-ordination and vehicle control, but also affects their mood, perception, information processing and judgment.
"Drug use can make it difficult to predict and judge how driving is affected until it's too late. There is no quick fix for fatigue. The only way to fix fatigue is to stop and sleep or take a long break, or better still, manage work and rest in a way which avoids fatigue."
The union for road transport workers has called for a law change to stop truck drivers having pay systems encouraging unsafe practices, said Karl Andersen, FIRST Union Transport and Logistics secretary.
"Owner drivers are under immense pressure to make a living.
"This leads to drivers taking short-cuts, running bald tyres, breaking driver regulations, and in some cases using stimulants to get through.
"Drivers work very long hours ... They shouldn't also have to work in an unsafe environment and put themselves and others at risk," Mr Anderson said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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