Driver got fired and faces charges after an incident on Canada’s busiest highway
A trucker caught smoking opium while driving on a freeway in Ontario, Canada, was charged and fired by his employer, police said.
Police pulled over the unidentified trucker on Ontario Highway 401, among the busiest in North America, late Friday after receiving a complaint that he was driving erratically, Ontario Provincial Police spokesperson Bill Dickson told FreightWaves.
“Sure enough, he was smoking opium,” Dickson said.
Because the offense resulted in an instantaneous driver’s license suspension, an officer called his employer, Dickson said. The carrier fired the driver on the spot, he said.
Traffic complaint wb #Hwy401 late Friday near #Gananoque. #LeedsOPP officer found transport driver was smoking opium. Chgd with impaired by drug, dangerous driving, drug offences, truck offences AND #fired by the company on the spot! #ONHwys ^bd pic.twitter.com/U6DYUbcg3o— OPP East Region (@OPP_ER) September 26, 2020
The trucker faces multiple charges of drug and traffic offenses. Police didn’t name his employer.
Dickson noted while instances of truck drivers being found smoking opium are unusual, impaired driving cases aren’t.
“Sadly, it’s not a very isolated incident,” he said.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an organization representing carriers on a national level, has been pushing the federal government to establish a national alcohol and drug testing program for trucking in line with the U.S. Currently, only cross-border drivers who attend the U.S. need to be randomly tested.
Canadian trucking companies can also face tricky legal issues about drivers found to use drugs or alcohol in the job if addiction may be a factor. While drivers are often fired for on-the-job substance use, federal and provincial laws also forbid termination on the basis of addiction and require employers to accommodate it as a disability.
“Employers should be treading carefully or they might be opening the door to a human rights complaint,” Sara Slinn, a professor at Osgoode Hall law school at York University in Toronto and Canadian labor law expert. She noted that the judgments for human rights complaints “can be substantial.”
The distinction between firing for the substance use itself versus for an addiction is a very important one.
An Alberta coal mine loader driver who tested positive for cocaine after an accident contested his firing alleging that he was dismissed due to his addiction. His case ultimately went to Canada’s Supreme Court, which concluded he was fired for violating his company’s drug policy, not because of his addiction.