POLICE have caught 140 drug driving offenders during operation Austrans in May.
The operation targeted fatigue, drug use and other road safety issues among the heavy vehicle road transport sector.
CEO of the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA), Jon White was dismayed at the large number of drivers apprehended for drug driving during the operation. He said drug abuse by drivers appeared to be influenced by tight deadlines and stiff competition.
"One of the biggest risks for heavy vehicle drivers is fatigue. Some drivers are still resorting to using drugs in order to cover long distances in as short a time as possible. In an industry where if you're late you could lose the next job or possibly your employment - some drivers feel they have to use stimulants to be able to meet deadlines," he said.
Taking drugs, such as methamphetamines, affects drivers' physical skills as well as mood, perception, information processing and judgment.
"Employers have access to logbooks, scheduling, timetables and rosters. If a driver is covering long distances in too short a time, or driving for longer periods than is allowed, they must be cutting corners somewhere, by either not resting, or using drugs to stay awake. Employers are likely to be aware of this and can be held legally liable and face hefty penalties," Mr White said.
Research from the Australian Transport Council and the New Zealand Ministry of Transport shows heavy vehicles account for 18% of all road fatalities or 250 deaths in Australia and 65 deaths in New Zealand every year, even though heavy vehicles make up around just 4% of vehicles on the road.