Comment: Government in a predicament on drugs

By: Nick Leggett, Road Transport CEO

Road Transport Forum takes a look at the serious and growing epidemic of drug-impaired driving in New Zealand

The number of deaths caused by drugged drivers—71 last year and 88 the year before—illustrates that we’re dealing with a serious and growing epidemic of drug-impaired driving in this country. The number of people being killed by drugged drivers is now even higher than the fatalities caused by excess alcohol. 


The problem the Government has is that while it talks up a big game on road safety and has initiated public consultation on enhanced drug testing of drivers, it has created a conflict for itself with plans to hold a referendum to decriminalise cannabis use.

If the Government is to act responsibly over decriminalisation, then they must satisfy road users and our industry that they will put in place a regime that takes drug-impaired driving seriously.

RTF does not believe New Zealand can any longer rely on the Compulsory Impairment Test as a sufficient deterrent on its own. We continue to strongly advocate for the institution of roadside drug testing using drug wipes and saliva testing as a tool for early detection of impaired drivers.

If the Government is as committed to road safety and reducing deaths on our roads as it says it is, then surely the small amount of time, money, and inconvenience spent testing suspected drug-impaired drivers is justified.Employers and workers in safety-sensitive industries, such as road transport, also need the confidence that they can continue to monitor and enforce workplace safety in an environment where drug use is no longer a criminal activity.

Road transport companies are obligated to do everything they can to manage staff safety under the Health and Safety at Work Act and as such, staff frequently undergo extensive drug testing, including pre-employment, random, and post-accident testing. How this is to be treated once cannabis is decriminalised is anyone’s guess and up to now, the Government has been completely silent on it.

RTF Conference

On a different note, I am pleased to announce that we have recently confirmed Craig Membrey as the keynote speaker for the upcoming 2019 RTF Conference. Craig runs a trucking company in Victoria, Australia—Membrey’s Transport & Crane Hire.

Craig’s son Rowan took his own life back in 2011 and since then, Craig has dedicated a huge amount of time and effort into raising awareness of depression and suicide through not-for-profit charitable organisation Beyond Blue.

Craig’s presentation promises to be a thought-provoking and moving look at the impact of depression and anxiety and how we can best help ourselves and others we care about get through it. This is a long-neglected issue within road transport and I hope that hearing from Craig will help promote further discussion among our industry.

Registration for the Conference and the NZ Road Transport Industry Awards, taking place on 24 and 25 September, at Wairakei Resort near Taupo, is now open at

The early-bird registration special, which will save you up to $125 per registration, is still available. Accommodation bookings for Wairakei can also be made through the conference website.

We’re also currently accepting entries for the four categories of the 2019 NZ Road Transport Industry Awards: the VTNZ Supreme Contribution to NZ Road Transport, the EROAD Outstanding Contribution to Health and Safety, Teletrac Navman Outstanding Contribution by a Woman in the Road Transport Industry, and the EROAD Young Driver of the Year (under 35). Criteria and nomination details can be found at

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