Report on haulage industry drug abuse "shocking and terrifying"

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Report on haulage industry drug abuse "shocking and terrifying"

2nd April 2012

A new report which claims there is a culture of drug taking amongst some UK haulage drivers has been branded as shocking and terrifying by a legal expert.

Matthew Claxson, a road traffic collisions expert at Fentons Solicitors LLP, was speaking after a BBC 5 Live investigation revealed how some drivers were regularly taking stimulants such as cocaine, speed and ecstasy to help keep themselves awake on long journeys, or even in some cases just to relieve boredom.

“These findings are shocking and terrifying,” said Matthew, a partner at the firm. “As a firm, we all too often deal with families who are left devastated by road deaths and serious injuries caused by motorists driving while under the influence of drink or drugs."

A number of drug-testing companies who were contacted by the BBC claim it was not unusual for up to 10 per cent of drivers tested from haulage companies to fail drug tests and that ‘substantial’ numbers of van and lorry drivers who had tested positive for illegal drugs had managed to keep their jobs.

“We understand that haulage drivers, particularly those travelling very long distances, are under enormous pressure, so to hear that some are using narcotics to help them stay awake or alert is not altogether surprising,” said Matthew. “But driving under the influence of any substance is completely unacceptable, and the government needs to do more to protect the public and ensure that there is a clear deterrent to stop drivers taking this dangerous and irresponsible course of action.”

One firm carrying out tests for a major haulage company said it was not surprising so many drivers were testing positive, while another firm said that out of 300 van drivers in their 20s who they had tested for one company, more than 40 had tested positive.

“These numbers are shocking and the RHA (Road Haulage Association) needs to take a very close look at what is evidently a significant problem in the transport industry,” said Matthew. “Haulage companies need to take more responsibility for their driver’s actions and the road transport industry needs to emulate the rail industry where there is a statutory duty to ensure drivers are drug-free.

“The problem we have at the moment regarding the existing drug-driving law is that drug-testing must take place within six hours of an incident and unlike in cases of drink-driving, a driver’s impairment must be proved. Drug-driving kills and the law needs to allow for a new offence of driving with illegal drugs in your system - removing the need to prove impairment,” he said.

“Drugs can affect a driver’s ability to judge speed and distances, reduce concentration and delay reaction speed,” added Matthew. “The government needs to do more to ensure availability of screening equipment and roadside drug testing devices and it is crucial that more priority is given to road policing so that those who believe it is acceptable to drive while under the influence of drugs are taken to task and understand that their actions will not be tolerated.

“We need to make sure that there is a zero tolerance approach to driving whilst under the influence of drugs, so that we can put an end to the appalling suffering so many families are put through as a result of needless tragedies.”

How can Fentons help?

Fentons has a specialist department experienced in handling claims for victims of road traffic collisions.

If you think that you have a case or require further information contact Fentons on 0800 0191 297 or fill in the online claims questionnaire.

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