Playing with fire

In TDDA, April 20223 MinutesBy Kirk HardyMay 26, 2022

The New Zealand trucking industry is asking people with a licence and experience to fill the staffing shortage amid the pandemic supply chain pinch. Unfortunately, the driver shortage has been a glaring issue for years due to an ageing workforce, long working hours, and the stigma that society has placed on the career. According to Ia Ara Aotearoa Transporting New Zealand, one in four transport companies has vehicles parked due to a lack of drivers.

Supply chain demands and a tight labour market pose even more risk to the industry’s sustainability. In some corners, the idea of loosening employment regulations in favour of hiring and retaining staff has been floated. This weakening of regulations, including drug testing policies, is a red herring. While it might increase drivers, it will most certainly increase the risks on New Zealand roads.

The NZTA just revealed its Road to Zero campaign. Are drivers with poor health records, a history of logbook errors, dangerous driving offences, and drug and alcohol abuse what the industry really needs right now?

A well-trained workforce is the lifeblood of any company – but that workforce must remain safe and compliant. Business owners who relax their stance on drugs and alcohol are playing with fire.

Recently, Lowy Institute research revealed that the use of methamphetamine and cocaine has been steadily increasing in Australia and New Zealand, despite the disruption of supply chains. The New Zealand Health Survey showed 15% of the adult population used cannabis last year, a rate nearly double that of a decade ago. The growing use and demand for illicit drugs is a clear signal that trucking companies that compromise their drug testing policies do so at significant risk.

What truckies need are purpose-built, fair and robust drug and alcohol policy and testing programmes. And logistics operators need these policies built by professionals to suit the specific needs of the company, where it works, and how it works. No two businesses or situations are identical.

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, company owners, directors and senior executives are exposed to penalties for failing to ensure a safe working environment. A drug-free workforce helps establish and sustain a safety culture, and mandatory drug tests are more common than ever, especially in safety-sensitive roles, such as heavy machinery or construction jobs.

Pre-employment checks and surveillance, and random and postincident testing are all tools in a business toolbox for staying compliant. To avoid legal grievances, businesses should also teach supervisors and managers how to manage and identify drug issues at work.