Ensure sobriety in the transport sector

Ensure sobriety in the transport sector

While it is each employer’s own choice to decide whether their workplace policies will involve drug and alcohol testing, as well as how and when these tests will be carried out, it is recommended that these policies be carefully revised and brought up to date – especially in the transport sector. Companies must do everything within their means to ensure a sober workforce is behind the wheel on South Africa’s roads.

Rhys Evans, MD of drug and alcohol testing equipment and accessories provider Alco-Safe, points out that transport companies should already be accustomed to testing their drivers before they are permitted to get behind the wheel of any truck or transport vehicle: “Testing drivers once they have arrived at their destination is an effective way of ensuring that they have not consumed any intoxicating substances during their journey. This is important, particularly for long-distance trips.”

He adds that drivers who have faced disciplinary action for having a breath alcohol level above the permissible amount as outlined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, might attest that the workplace doesn’t have to be a physical location for the driver, noting: “Their workplace is their vehicle and, as such, there can be no argument that the National Road Traffic Act allows for a higher permissible alcohol level with public road users.”

Evans says transport drivers are considered professionals, so the Occupational Health and Safety Act trumps the National Road Safety Act in requiring the strict enforcement of rules relating to workplace intoxication by employers. “While such drivers could not be prosecuted by the national traffic police in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, their employers certainly can take zero tolerance disciplinary action within the full ambit of the law,” he points out.

“Breathalyser tests at the vehicle depot are useful tools within the transport company’s arsenal when enforcing workplace substance abuse policies,” continues Evans, “and saliva-based drug tests are useful for picking up a variety of substances (depending on what companies are looking for) that have been consumed within the previous two or three days.”

Technology brings testing to the road

Additionally, testing technology has advanced to offer employers more effective safeguarding measures on their vehicles, to prevent intoxicated drivers from being a danger to themselves and others on the road.

“Many trucking companies are now making use of a device called an InterLock, which is a breathalyser that works with the ignition system of a truck. This ignition interlock device (IID) is a form of electronic monitoring that requires the driver to blow into a mouthpiece on the device before starting or continuing to operate the vehicle,” says Evans.

“If the resultant breath-alcohol concentration analysed results exceeds the programmed blood alcohol concentration, the device prevents the engine from turning on. At random times after the engine has been started, the IID will require another breath sample, known as a rolling retest, which is done to prevent someone other than the driver from providing a breath sample.”

Trucking companies can now also make use of an app-controlled breathalyser test management platform for regular, remote capturing, sharing, and tracking of breathalyser test data. “This empowers fleet operators to facilitate the remote testing of drivers. Drivers can be prompted to perform breathalyser tests on themselves, making the data instantly available for analysis and sharing, in real time,” explains Evans. “Tests are matched with photographic identity, GPS position, date, time, device serial number, and test result, in order to eliminate the possibility of tricking the system.”

Making IIDs compulsory

“If the government were to make it compulsory for such electronic monitoring devices to be installed in 18-wheeler trucks and vehicles used for long-distance haulage, this would be effective in reducing intoxication-related accidents and fatalities,” Evans emphasises. “This would take the responsibility of monitoring driver intoxication out of the ambit of traffic police, and place it squarely with the drivers’ employers. These electronic monitoring devices would have additional risk-reduction benefits that would result in lower insurance premiums and safer roads for all users.”

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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