Road hauliers have condemned the plans which, if enacted, would be likely to mean the employer would face legal sanction, as well as the driver, for any breaches of driving or drug-driving legislation.
The Department of Transport insisted the matter is only at its formative stages at this point, though it is believed the Medical Bureau for Road Safety is heading up a working group on the proposal.
“Enabling legislation is being considered which would compel employers of drivers to conduct tests for alcohol or drugs,” a spokes- man for the Department of Transport confirmed.
“This would apply primarily to drivers of commercial vehicles and public services vehicles.
“This proposal is at a very early stage of consideration. Consultation with relevant agencies, including the Health and Safety Authority, will be necessary before the proposal is developed further.”
Eoin Gavin, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, said that the legislation would be impossible to enforce and implement, not least since drivers were away from base for most of the time, starting work at different times spread over a 24-hour period, seven days per week.
Furthermore, he said he did not believe drink-driving by commercial drivers was a significant problem in Ireland.
Maeve McElwee, Ibec head of industrial relations and HR, said reducing the incidence of driving under the influence of intoxicants was a really important objective and business would engage with the department at an early stage on any new proposals relating to the obligations of employers.
More than 100 driver-testers will this afternoon hold the first strike since mandatory driving testing was introduced in 1964.
Impact, which represents the testers, has said the action is being taken over proposals by the Road Safety Authority to outsource testing in breach of a 2012 Labour Court ruling. The union claims that ruling recommended the hiring of a reserve body of testers to avert possible backlogs but the RSA has engaged subcontractors.
RSA has said that, in accordance with numerous recommendations and rulings by the LRC, it established a panel of five reserve driver testers to assist in reducing the impact of short-notice sick-leave absences on customers.
Impact has said further industrial action is possible unless the situation is resolved.