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How to create a driver drug and alcohol policy?

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Fleet operators looking to create a drug and alcohol policy should start by including a clear statement of intent. It's important to also provide a straightforward definition of what counts as drug or alcohol misuse, making this as clear as possible and removing any doubt. Management should look to denote who’s responsible for overseeing the policy, and how it’s implemented. Any policy produced needs to make clear what is expected of staff, and what the likely sanctions are for those who break the rules.

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Q: What prescription drugs can’t my drivers take?

In 2015, new drug-driving legislation was introduced to tighten the restrictions relating to driving while under the influence of drugs – including prescription drugs as well as illegal substances. In particular, eight prescription drugs were included in this legislation: clonazepam, flunitrazepam, oxazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, methadone, morphine and temazepam. However, the majority of people prescribed these medications should be able to drive as normal provided they are doing so in accordance with the advice given to them by a medical professional. The driving limit was set at a level above normal prescribed doses. Drivers should however keep evidence (such as prescriptions sleep) with them when driving while taking a course of any of the prescription medications listed.

Q: How big a problem is driving under the influence on Britain’s roads?

A: According to road safety charity Brake, in Britain in 2014 some 240 people were killed in road crashes where at least one driver had exceeded the drink-drive limit. The following year, it was discovered that the influence of drugs (including both illegal substances and legal medication) was a contributory factor in 62 road traffic accidents resulting in fatalities and 259 which caused serious injuries.

Q: How seriously are fleets taking the issue of drink and drug driving?

A: A 2013 survey carried out by Brake’s Fleet Safety Forum found that most fleets had failed to test drivers either for alcohol (55 per cent) or drugs (57 per cent). It also revealed that only a minority of those surveyed (44 per cent) would dismiss an employee found to have been driving while over the legal alcohol limit. Of course, these findings are several years old now and it’s highly likely that, with improved awareness fleets today take more stringent action against drink and drug driving. Nevertheless, there is doubtless continuing room for improvement.

Q: How should fleet operators go about introducing a drug and alcohol policy for drivers?

A: Consultation should be the watchword here. While it’s not a legal requirement, it is good for harmonious employer-employee relations for the former to ensure that it consults the latter properly. In other words, fleet operators need to be prepared to discuss their prospective driver drug and alcohol policies with the workforce in advance of their introduction. They need to explain to drivers why this policy is necessary – raising awareness of road safety issues relating to drink and drug-driving – and thereby building support for it. Drivers should also be given the freedom to actively engage in the process of devising this policy, putting forward their own suggestions or feedback and giving them a sense of ownership of the policy. With this comes an enhanced sense of responsibility and understanding, which means the policy stands a far better chance of success.

Q: What exactly can fleet operators do to raise awareness of drink and drug-driving?

A: Road safety awareness training should be an ongoing process, with a particular emphasis on drink and drug-driving. Drivers should be reminded about the law in relation to driving under the influence, including the potential risks of prescription drugs as well as other substances. They should be encouraged to seek the advice of medical professionals where appropriate, and reminded that help is always at hand for those who find themselves struggling with alcohol and drug problems.

Q: What sort of training should be introduced to recognise signs of possible substance abuse?

A: Managers in particular must be trained adequately to recognise these signs. These might include behavioural changes such as mood swings and irritability, poor timekeeping or substandard performance in the job. They should also be trained in how to deal with these problems in a sympathetic way when they arise, directing the person to concerned to the help and assistance they need.

Q: What key elements should a driver drug and alcohol policy include?

A: There are four broad elements which should provide the backbone of any fleet operator’s driver drug and alcohol policy. Firstly, your policy should include a clear statement of intent outlining why it is in place and what it is intended to achieve. Second, it must provide a straightforward definition of what counts as drug or alcohol misuse and a reminder of what the law states in this regard. Third, it needs to denote who’s responsible for overseeing the policy and how it’s implemented. And fourth, most importantly, it needs to make clear what is expected of staff when driving for work and what the likely sanctions are for those who break the relevant rules.