TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) is repeating its call for the federal government to implement a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing program for workers in safety-sensitive positions.
The news comes on Canada’s one-year anniversary of legalized recreational marijuana, and on the same day that edible versions of the drug also became legal.
“Based on the DriverCheck figures, people in our industry who never used marijuana before could be consuming the legal product,” says Jonathan Blackham, director of policy and public affairs. “The trucking industry does not care if it’s legal or not, we want to make sure that our drivers are always operating their vehicles in a sober state. The Government of Canada must empower all trucking fleets to operate mandatory drug and alcohol programs to ensure our sector’s stellar safety record regarding sobriety is maintained.”
The CTA also called on the government to bolster mobile testing resources, noting that questions still remain about the effectiveness of roadside testing.
Meanwhile, positive drug tests among truck drivers – particularly those that relate to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana – are on the rise.
DriverCheck recorded such positive test results were up a respective 16.8%, 17.1% and 21.2% in the first three quarters of this year when compared to the same periods in 2018, says Dr. Melissa Snider-Adler, DriverCheck’s chief medical review officer.
Almost 2/3 of the positive results recorded by the medical review service are now associated with THC.
But the positive test results had already been rising for several years. Some of the increase could simply be linked to an increase in reasonable-cause testing because workplaces are more educated about the effects of marijuana, she said. “It’s not like everything was stable and all of a sudden we legalized [marijuana] and everything jumped up.”
Aside from the positive tests, fleets also appear to disagree on what levels of the drug are acceptable in truck drivers.
Those that haul cross-border freight must comply with the zero-tolerance established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Things are trickier when dealing with domestic operations, especially since individual provinces vary in the on-road requirements for commercial vehicle operators. Jurisdictions like Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan set a zero tolerance. Other provinces like British Columbia restricts drivers of every sort to the limit of 2 nanograms per milliliter of blood, as defined by federal Bill C-46.
Snider-Adler has seen workplace policies that tell drivers to abstain from using marijuana for 28 days, 24 hours, or as little as eight hours before beginning work behind the wheel.
The Occupational and Environmental Medical Association of Canada recommends a wait of at least 24 hours before returning to safety-sensitive work such as operating motor vehicles or equipment. It stresses that the timing and duration of marijuana-related impairment can vary, and calls for more related research.
“For non-DOT it is a little all over the place,” Snider-Adler says. “It’s unfortunate that, in the industry as a whole, there’s no sort of standard.”