Ontario proposes stricter fines, suspensions for drug-impaired commercial drivers

By Greg Grisolano, Land Line Digital Content Editor | Friday, September 22, 2017

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation announced plans to beef up the penalties for driving impaired. A proposal introduced Sept. 18 would create what the agency dubs a “zero tolerance” standard for commercial drivers who are found to be operating their vehicles under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

If approved by the legislature, truckers found to be driving under the influence would face a three-day suspension and a proposed fine of $250 for the first offense. The fine amount escalates in $100 increments for subsequent offenses, capping out at $450 for the third offense and beyond. The penalties may be levied against those who refuse to perform a roadside sobriety test.

According to representatives of the Ministry of Transportation, Ontario currently has no “zero tolerance rules” for commercial drivers. Existing impaired driving sanctions would still apply. The escalating fines provision would apply to all impaired driving sanctions. The proposed legislation is expected to be introduced as a bill later this fall.

“There is no excuse for impaired driving — whether it is due to drugs or alcohol,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a statement. “It is unacceptable, dangerous and the consequences can be tragic and life-changing. Our zero tolerance policies for the highest-risk drivers are about keeping Ontario’s roads safe and protecting people across the province.”

The proposal also includes increasing the suspension times for young drivers found operating under the influence, and would impose the same monetary penalties for a first, second and third offense.

The sanctions come ahead of Canada’s legalization of recreational marijuana, which takes place nationwide next July.

The Ontario Trucking Association issued a statement in conjunction with Ministry’s tough proposal saying it “applauds” the proposal.

“For the last 20 years it has been an industry standard for companies to take proactive steps to ensure drivers are fit for duty and not operating under the influence of alcohol or other drugs,” OTA president Stephen Laskowski said in the news release.

“With the legalization of marijuana, we believe governments need to send employers a clear message of what is expected in the transportation sector when it comes to safety sensitive positions,” he said.

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