HGV Drivers and new laws on drug influenced driving

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The dangers of driving after alcohol are well known. Now, new laws on driving while under the influence of drugs, which came into force at the beginning of March, have strong implications for anyone involved in driving HGV or road freight vehicles.

Drugs may present more of a problem than alcohol, since many of them may be hard to detect. What’s more, some of the drugs mentioned in the new legislation may actually have been prescribed to the driver by a medical professional.

The new laws outline the allowable limits of 16 different drugs, half of them legal, prescribed medication and the other eight illicit. The changes follow a report nearly five years ago from Sir Peter North, which said the UK had a significant issue with driving after taking drugs.

And road safety charity Brake says it carried out a survey with one large motoring insurance firm in which 3% or a million drivers admitted to having driven while under the influence of drugs in the previous 12 months.

The permissible limits seem to be strongly slanted in favour of the prescription preparations, while some critics have pointed out that the new legislation is unduly harsh, and that traces of things like heroin, cocaine and ketamine would have almost no effect on someone’s ability to drive.

Further, critics say that this is just another way to arrest users of illegal drugs, whether they are able to drive a vehicle safely or not.

For those found guilty under the new riles, penalties include up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine of £5,000 and an automatic year-long ban on driving. Clearly, for professional drivers, the impact on their careers will be disastrous, not to mention the implications for things like insurance. So know the law and talk to your drivers.

The illicit drugs (and their limits) are:

  • Benzoylecgonine (found in cocaine): 50 micrograms per litre of blood (µg/l)
  • Cocaine: 10 µg/l
  • Delta-9-Tetrahydrocanabinol (cannabis and cannabinol): 2 µg/l
  • Ketamine: 20 µg/l
  • Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD): 1 µg/l
  • Methylamphetamine: 10 µg/l
  • MDMA (ecstasy): 10 µg/l
  • 6-Monoactetylmorphine (6-MAM-Heroin and Diamorphone): 5 µg/l

The prescription meds and their allowable levels are:

  • Clonazepam (used to treat seizures and panic disorder): 50 µg/l
  • Diazepam (anti-anxiety): 550 µg/l
  • Flunitrazepam (Rohypnol: sedative): 300 µg/l
  • Lorazepam (anti-anxiety): 100 µg/l
  • Methadone (heroin substitute): 500 µg/l
  • Morphine (pain relief): 80 µg/l
  • Oxazepam (anti-anxiety): 300 µg/l
  • Temazepam (anti-anxiety and sedative): 1,000 µg/l.