The Long Haul

Australia is a land of sweeping plains, deserts and long, long roads. Transport roads…roads used by a trucking industry that employs 246,100 people around Australia. It’s an industry that actually “carries 75 per cent of Australia’s domestic freight and this in turn equates to more than two billion tonnes of load per year.” [1]

Improvements in the industry’s efficiency, productivity and ability to deliver freight, flow on through the whole economy and to the whole population. In short, Australia is heavily reliant on an optimally performing national road transport network. And while the dangers of drink driving have long been absorbed into the Australian lexicon and have filtered through to industry, it is only relatively recently the issue of drug driving has reached community notice. As a safety issue, drug driving extends into both the community sector as well as the transport industry sector, where, for some time, the issue of amphetamine use has come under scrutiny.

In 2010, the Australian Trucking Association developed their Strategic Plan 2011-2013 with a multi-faceted objective including the need for “increased knowledge throughout the industry of the importance of fitness for duty” [2] This approach is linked in with the Trucksafe Program, and aims to “carry out a major project to raise awareness of drug, alcohol and sleep apnoea issues amongst operators as well as provide the industry with a best-practice approach to managing driver health and fitness for duty.”[3]

A recent Queensland University of Technology study focusing on illicit drug use in the long haul transport industry, certainly points to the problem directly. One respondent interviewee noted “the major turnaround as far as (legal) drugs in the industry occurred in 1989 with the two major, fatal bus accidents we had in Grafton and Kempsey. Duromine and ephedrine were outlawed…” But in their place, the incidence of illicit amphetamine use grew.[4]

The truck drivers interviewed in the study generally maintained amphetamine use did occur, particularly on long haul trips. One retired driver, now managing his own transport company maintained the incidence was as high as 90%. “It’s absolutely endemic. The driver that drives Sydney to Brisbane and does not take drugs would be the exception. As an owner of a company it is not practical for me to say I won’t employ any drivers that use drugs. If I did that…I’d be driving three trucks myself.”[5]

Whether stimulant use is as prevalent as is maintained by the QUT interviewee, or whether it remains a peripheral industry problem within long haul freight in Australia, there is no doubt safety is of the essence. CMM Technology supports transport industry best practise and the need for a targeted drug testing approach that ensures true safety on the roads for all Australians. Call CMM Technology on 08 92042500 for drug testing assistance and advice.


[1] BITRE, Transport Statistics Yearbook 2009.

[2] Australian Trucking Association Strategic Plan 2011-2013.  http://www.atatruck.net.au/

[3] Ibid.

[4] http://eprints.qut.edu.au/16018/1/Naomi_Richards_Thesis.pdf

[5] Ibid.  Pp. 69.

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