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TSQ: What do you think about random drug and alcohol testing for truckers?

MILTON, Ont. – Canadian truck drivers who cross the border into the US have been subject to random alcohol and drug testing since 1996. For US truck drivers, DoT-mandated random testing has been around since the late 1980s.


MILTON, Ont. – Canadian truck drivers who cross the border into the US have been subject to random alcohol and drug testing since 1996. For US truck drivers, DoT-mandated random testing has been around since the late 1980s.

The legality of workplace alcohol and drug testing has been debated by courts in the US and Canada over the years. The US Supreme Court considered privacy issues but ruled in favour of an employer’s right to test workers in safety-sensitive positions. But provincial courts in Canada have generally disallowed the practice and placed more weight on the Charter of Rights, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities (drug dependence is considered a disability in Canada).

Although ongoing random testing has not found favour with provincial rights commissions, pre-employment DoT testing is evidently acceptable as a condition of employment. It is not uncommon for applicants for trucking jobs to be required to supply a urine sample.

Some of the bigger carriers have enlisted all their drivers in a random testing pool, no matter whether they run domestically or internationally. We travelled to the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Milton, Ont., to find out how truck drivers felt about random alcohol and drug testing.


Ian Reed lives in Penetanguishene, Ont., and drives for Farlain Transport located in the same town. He agrees strongly with random and pre-employment testing. “I don’t do that stuff at all. I don’t do pills and I’m really against guys drinking or taking drugs. They endanger themselves and everyone else out there including other truck drivers and four-wheelers.”


Wes Girard drives for SM Freight of Blenheim, Ont., and thinks that random testing probably does some good. “It keeps some bad stuff out. I never had any bad experiences with it, but up until a while ago it seemed like I was the only one getting picked. I was called in three times one year. And then about four years ago it just like it quit. I haven’t had to do one since.

“But a buddy of mine takes a pill for his back. I think it’s Tylenol 3 or codeine. He ran out and his wife takes the same pill. So he took one of his wife’s pills. Then when he had to go for a drug test the doctor asked him about it. He could have said it was the last pill from his prescription, but he said it was his wife’s. And because of that he was off work for three months, had to go for counselling and all kinds of retesting.”


Al Kotter drives for Anvil Ring Transport out of Sherwood Park, Alta. He’s completely in favour of “workplace random testing.”

“If people don’t have anything to hide it shouldn’t be a problem. But I do see substance abuse out here and it has become a problem. That’s why the Americans brought it in. As far as I’m concerned if you refuse to take a drug test you’re infecting the rest of the public.

“I think some of the drugs that are available by prescription are also a problem. And they get away with it because they have a doctor’s note.”


Austin Simmons lives in Erie, Pennsylvania and drives for Celadon Trucking out of Indianapolis, Indiana. He doesn’t have any problem with mandatory testing.

“I’ve had do take three tests down in the States. It takes five minutes and they say it’s keeping the highways safe. Maybe it is, but I’ve heard of guys in truck stops in the States smoking pot and doing coke. Those are the kind of drivers we don’t need. I’m not sure how they expect to pass a test; some of them take some kind of products that cleans them out. I don’t know if they work. I’ve never done drugs so I don’t expect to a fail a test ever.”


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1 Comment » for TSQ: What do you think about random drug and alcohol testing for truckers?
  1. Joy of Trucking says:

    The problem with random testing is that it creates more problems than it solves. Urine testing only indicates that drugs have been used, not whether a person is under the influence. So how many folks are penalized without actually being a threat to safety? Marijuana is legal in two states now. THC stays in the system for an average of two weeks, but the “high” is gone in a few hours. If you suspect an employee is impaired due to drug or alcohol use, you have the right to have him tested. Hoping a random test will weed him out is pretty dumb, all things considered.

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