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Is random drug testing coming to Canada?

The topic of drugs have been top of mind for a few years now in both Canada and the United States. It started a few years back with marijuana being the drug of choice for many with chronic pain. Since then it has been a hot topic for Government agencies on legalization which in turn has led to business startups in locations across the U.S. The topic has mostly stayed south of our borders with certain States legalizing marijuana and drug testing in transportation being required for those going to the United States, however the drug landscape is changing and fast!

Drivers that weren’t heading towards the United States generally didn’t have to worry about being tested here in Canada. You may have had to be tested when being hired as a pre-employment drug test but that was about it. With the potential legalization of marijuana coming to Canada in the near future there is more opportunity for access to drugs therefore more opportunity for additional consumption.

Drivers have always been subject to random drug tests when working for carriers that haul to the United States. Whether that driver actually crosses the border does not matter. Once a carrier is deemed international in services, twenty-five percent of the workforce in safety sensitive positions are eligible for drug testing each year. A driver has the opportunity to be tested up to four times per year if their name comes up in the random pool of names drawn each month.

The rules for Canadian drivers may be changing. Companies that don’t travel to the United States have generally been kept out of the loop of drug testing regulations. Other than the pre-hire testing many drivers go through they have been exempt from testing other than in company policy of an incident. That may be changing with a recent change to Toronto’s largest transit company.

Recently the Toronto Transit Commission won an injunction to start testing their employees involved in safety sensitive positions. The TTC has been scoured with incidents related to drugs and alcohol and decided to implement a random program to all employees in safety positions. On day one of the program two employees were deemed “under the influence” while on the job and have been suspended. So what does this mean for the rest of us in transportation?

With the TTC being one of the largest transit providers in the largest Province in Canada can change the landscape for drivers that only work in Canada. Generally Canadian only drivers have been exempt from testing but the TTC program is showing there is a need for drivers that don’t leave the Province. As marijuana becomes more accessible in Canada through legalization the transportation industry is currently working towards finding a way to protect workers and the public at large. If the TTC wins their current battle with their Union this may open doors to other transportation based companies to allow random testing on their drivers.

Being a professional truck driver adds extra scrutiny among the public as the size and weight of the vehicles can cause increased damage and loss of life. Ensuring those behind the wheel are drug and alcohol free is important to all of us on the road. There have been a number of incidents over the last couple of years with drivers in Canada only and when unionized companies like TTC have the opportunity to test their members means it will soon be coming to the rest of the transportation sector. We all need to do our part to curve this growing problem and the first step to opening up doors as a new driver in today’s transportation environment is to remain drug and alcohol free.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge has been in the transportation industry for over 30 years. He is an author of the books Driven to Drive and Running By The Mile, consultant, podcast host, and speaker. TTSAO also known as the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario has certified member schools in the truck training vocation ensuring quality entry level drivers enter the transportation industry. To learn more about the TTSAO or to find a certified school in your area visit www.ttsao.com

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