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Roadside Drug Testing Deferred

Published 18 Mar 2023

A year on from Parliament passing the The Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Act 2022, it has just been announced that the intended start of random roadside drug testing of drivers will not be proceeding this month as initially announced. This is due to a major problem regarding the lack of procurement in terms of sourcing a device that can adequately do an oral-salvia based roadside drug test on a driver. This follows concerns raised by medical professionals regarding the reliability of oral tests, including the issue of them returning false negative or positive results, and being unable to test for impairment, which could lead to innocent people being punished.

It is estimated that drug impaired driving is a factor in about 30% of all fatal crashes and unfortunately it appears for the moment this won't be changing.
When the new legislative regime eventually takes effect, then it is likely to have a significant impact in the workplace and also present many new challenges for employers.

At this stage it is suggested upon a positive result from a roadside check, the driver will be issued with a 12 hour driving stand-down, amongst other penalties and further charges. This potentially presents employees with an immediate issue in terms of getting to work. If staff come clean and relay the real reason why they can't make it to work, does that give an adequate reason for the employer to drug test them? If an employee loses their licence on a driving while impaired charge, does that give an employer a reason to terminate? Probably not in isolation, unless there is a clear nexus and/or impact in terms of their employment and the nature of work they perform for their employer.

The practical solution to the testing issue lies with NZ Police and the incoming Police Minister, but until then the best advice is to ensure you have a robust Drug/Alcohol Policy and testing system in place, making it clear when & where you will test and the consequences for failing.

Whether it is failing for alcohol or drugs the risks are the same from a safety point of view. It's never ok to work in a safety sensitive area while under the influence.

If you have nothing in place currently around drugs and alcohol, we strongly suggest spending some time on this issue. In the Library section of the Employers Toolbox is our recommended template for a comprehensive policy. Non-members can also purchase one directly: