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Despite pot legalization in Canada, professional drivers reminded trucking still ‘zero tolerance’ industry

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Now that Canada has legalized the recreational use of marijuana, professional truck drivers plying highways on both sides of the border are reminded that trucking in North America is still a “zero tolerance” industry.

That’s according to Garth Pitzel, who is director of safety and driver development for Canada-based Bison Transport, a safety award winner for many years.

Neither is Bison going to be involved in transporting cannabis or its derivative products, Pitzel said. “We’re not going to get involved in that; we’ll not jeopardize our employees. A fellow [in another company] was banned from the U.S. for life because he was involved in the cannabis business in Canada.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is warning travelers that pot remains an illegal narcotic in the U.S., noted Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operator Business Association of Canada (OBAC).

And, she told The Trucker, although Canada has no federal/provincial labor rules on drug and alcohol testing outside the military because of privacy issues, “most workplaces, including trucking companies, have their own policies around the use of drugs and alcohol, including an obligation to follow U.S. rules when in the U.S.

“Leading up to pot legalization in Canada there was a lot of emphasis on making sure the trucking industry was ready with updated policies in place.”

In Canada, she said, local provinces and territories are responsible for determining how cannabis is distributed and sold within their jurisdictions. They’re also responsible for how roadside inspections are conducted, with drug-impaired driving offenses treated the same as driving alcohol-impaired, meaning zero tolerance for novice drivers, young drivers up to 22 years of age and commercial drivers.

So far in Canada, Ritchie said, the only federally approved device for testing THC, the psychoactive agent in pot, is roadside saliva testing, which shows if cannabis was consumed in the last 12 hours.

“The issue of roadside drug-testing is still under debate,” Ritchie said. “Most police forces are planning to keep it ‘business as usual’ with sobriety field tests at roadside, but it’s less clear which jurisdictions will be using oral screening devices.”

Unlike tests for alcohol intoxication, the saliva tests don’t show the level of cannabis impairment, according to Pitzel.

He said Canada’s national policy says a person is allowed only so much cannabis in their possession and provisional jurisdictions break it down further as to where cannabis can be consumed, which doesn’t include public places.

“The provinces really clamped down; you can’t do it in any public spots so it’s really only [allowed] in your house,” he said.

There are a lot of professional truck drivers on the roads who are at risk of other drivers’ impairment, Pitzel said, “and we want to make sure they [truckers] get home safely as far as training and procedures.”

He added that penalties for driving while drunk have increased but not for driving while impaired by cannabis.

News sources report Canada law enforcement are wrestling with the sale and consumption of cannabis edible products, such as candy or bakery items infused with cannabis. Those kinds of items are attractive to children but can contain amounts of THC which can be harmful to them.

“One complication is that unlike alcohol, there is no clear consensus on what constitutes marijuana impairment,” Ritchie said, “and current testing methods such as urine and blood tests can be misleading since THC can linger in the body for days or weeks. So the test indicates only prior consumption, not current impairment.”

In short, she said, “it’s not a straightforward issue.”

 

 

 

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The Nation

Runaway ‘bobtail’ tractor crashes into Atlanta motel

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Police said this “bob-tail” tractor left the road, hit a parked car and ran into the side of a motel. (Atlanta Channel 2 Action News photo)

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Thursday that a driver is in custody after crashing a tractor-trailer into a motel in northwest Atlanta and running from the scene, officials said.

Atlanta Fire Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford told AJC.com that the truck went “partially” into the side of the Airway Motel in the 700 block of Fulton Industrial Boulevard on Thursday morning. There were no reports of injuries.

The “bobtail” tractor-trailer left the road, hit a parked limousine and went into the one-story building about 9:15 a.m., Atlanta police Officer Jarius Daugherty said.

The driver ran but was captured nearby, police said. His identity and the charges against him have not been released.

A woman was inside the motel room where the truck hit, but she was able to escape by climbing out of a back window, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“I just started crying and screaming,” the woman, Lashonda Allen, told the news station. “I was just praying to God the semi-truck didn’t catch on fire.”

Crews are checking the structural integrity of the building and investigating what sparked the crash.

By noon, the truck had been removed, and a gaping hole remained in the brick building.

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The Nation

Oops! New York state did not previously enforce ELD rule, now making up for lost time

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The ELD mandate was a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. The Trucker file photo.

ALBANY, N.Y. — There’s always a straggler in the bunch. Unknown to many, New York state has not previously been enforcing the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate because it never adopted the ELD rule under its state laws and thus lacked the authority to enforce it.

According to the Trucking Association of New York (TANY), the New York State DOT has now issued an emergency rulemaking and begun enforcement of the ELD mandate.

TANY added in a news release that they have been told carriers not in compliance with the ELD mandate will be placed out-of-service as early as Thursday, January 17.

The ELD rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect in December 2017 and state governments were to have followed suit by incorporating the federal ELD rule into their state laws.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has pursued lawsuits with certain states that have enforced the mandate while lacking a state-level law.

The ELD mandate has been unpopular among some truckers, who say it harms their schedules, take-home pay, and safety. Other truckers have said they like electronic logging once they get used to it.

When OOIDA sued New York, their complaint was dismissed — not because the New York court agreed with the state’s actions to enforce the federal law, but because New York wasn’t enforcing the law in the first place, according to Business Insider.

The snafu came to light in a State of New York Supreme Court ruling and opinion issued on December 31 by Judge Richard M. Platkin.

“Drivers are not being stopped, cited, or placed out-of-service pursuant to the ELD rule,” Platkin wrote.

Marc Berger, the chief motor-carrier investigator for New York’s Department of Transportation, said in the December 31 ruling that there are “no notices of violation or uniform traffic tickets being issued citing ELD provisions.”

The other defendants in the case — New York’s state police and the Department of Motor Vehicles — also stated that the ELD law hasn’t been enforced.

The ELD mandate electronically enforces the Hours of Service (HOS) law, which has been in effect since the federal government began regulating trucking in the 1930s. The HOS law stipulates that truckers can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, a provision that some truckers say doesn’t reflect the nature of their work.

New York state said in the ruling that it does in fact enforce the HOS, but that the law is more challenging to enforce if ELDs are used.

The ELD mandate came into effect by means of a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. FMCSA estimated in 2014 that ELDs could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year.

But some truckers maintain ELDs are doing the opposite, while truck lobbying groups say it’s really not ELDs drivers have a problem with, it’s the unbendable nature of the HOS, which need more flexibility.

“The electronic logs are supposed to make it safer, but really it has created a hazardous race to beat the clock,” career truck driver Steve Manley, 51, told Business Insider. “Drivers are now more reckless than ever trying to make it to their destination before the clock runs out with the mandatory breaks and such.”

A TANY news release said despite New York State not enforcing the ELD mandate, it did enforce HOS and that FMCSA roadside inspections and on-site audits enforced the ELD mandate.

“Due to this, TANY continued to advise members to be in compliance with the ELD mandate regardless of the situation with New York enforcement,” the association said.

 

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The Nation

Speeding tractor-trailer flattens Utah restaurant, 3 injured

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This image from Salt Lake City television station FOX News 13 shows the aftermath of a speeding big rig slamming into a restaurant. (Courtesy: FOX News 13)

WELLINGTON, Utah — A speeding tractor-trailer skidded off a snow-slicked road Wednesday and crashed into a restaurant in a small Utah town, flattening the establishment and injuring 3 people, authorities said.

The truck was traveling too fast for conditions at about 6:30 a.m. when it went off a state highway that runs through the town of Wellington and struck the Los Jilbertos restaurant, which was open, the Utah Highway Patrol said in a statement.

State troopers rescued the restaurant owner’s wife, who was trapped in in the wreckage and suffered what were described as minor injuries. Also taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries were the restaurant owner and the truck driver, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Nicholas Street.

No customers were inside the restaurant when the truck hit it.

Images of the wreck showed the restaurant’s snow-covered roof torn off and leaning on top of the collapsed restaurant, the semi-trailer’s cab lodged into a corner of the building and the trailer jack-knifed. The restaurant is just off the highway, State Route 6.

The crash knocked out electrical and gas service to part of Wellington, a community of about 1,600 residents about two hours southeast of Salt Lake City. The power outage closed the town’s elementary school.

 

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