Opinion: Prioritise drug driving enforcement

By: Warren Clark

Reform petty intervention and focus on the real industry scourges

Opinion: Prioritise drug driving enforcement
Warren Clark


NatRoad supports a shift away from roadside enforcement of heavy vehicle laws but is calling for extra attention to be paid to enforcing drug and alcohol misuse.

More frequent testing of light- and heavy-vehicle drivers for drug driving, in particular, is a vital road safety measure.

These issues shouldn’t be forgotten as the reforms to the Heavy Vehicle National Law (HVNL) are being finalised and where a move to risk-based enforcement is likely.

NatRoad emphasised in all of our submissions to the HVNL review that enforcement must be completely reformed.

There must be warnings issued before fines are imposed for mere administrative offences, particularly those relating to fatigue records.

Much greater use of self-clearing defect notices should be applied so that they are the norm where there is no imminent danger to the vehicle, the road or other road users.

And resources that are currently applied to painstakingly checking fatigue diaries for pedantic issues should be diverted to cracking down on drug driving which is becoming an increasing danger.

Increases in absenteeism, decreases in quality of work, loss in productivity, and high turnover rates are all attributable to substance abuse.

Read Warren Clark’s take on Covid-19 vaccination, here

Driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol must be eliminated.

Many authorities, including the police, are taking the view that so long as it is reasonably practicable for a road transport business to have a drug and alcohol policy in place then a policy should be implemented and followed.

That is a step which seeks to ensure the safety of road transport activities, a vital element of chain of responsibility law. NatRoad helps members put drug and alcohol policies in place and all members should have a policy: it is a reasonably practicable measure to deal with a real risk.

NatRoad firmly supports an increase in road-side enforcement of drug driving, and we are calling for the allocation of resources to support this.

Government data shows that whilst those testing positive to a breath analysis for alcohol was 0.5 per cent of those sampled, the percentage testing positive to roadside drug tests was 12 per cent.

This is an alarming statistic; testing light and heavy vehicle drivers for drug and alcohol use must be increased. Tougher penalties should apply to driving whilst there are illicit drugs present in the person’s system. This should be an immediate reform priority to improve road safety.

Research conducted by the University of New South Wales shows that, as of January 2020, all Australian states and territories have Roadside Drug Testing (RDT) laws that include a non-impairment-based provision that enables police to require a driver to provide an oral saliva, blood or urine sample which is then tested for the presence of specific illicit drugs.

While the individual laws vary, they all include a zero-tolerance threshold, that is, any amount detected means an offence has been committed.

While the first RDT laws tested only for cannabis and amphetamines, as of January 2020 seven states test for three drugs: tetrahydrocannabinol (THC/ cannabis), methylamphetamine (speed) and 3,4-methylenedioxymethylamphetamine (ecstasy). NSW also tests for cocaine.

Testing for all these substances should be increased and those who take drugs and drive given severe punishment.

Warren Clark is CEO of the National Road Transport Association


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