April 22, 2016 [Vancouver, BC] – Impaired driving penalties across Canada are stiff and many drivers don’t make the same mistake twice. Those who drive after drinking face licence suspensions, fines, vehicle impoundment and possibly even jail time under both federal and provincial laws.
The problem for the commercial driving industry arises when labour is scarce and companies are faced with applicants or current employees who have criminal convictions that are now well in the past. According to the Conference Board of Canada, there could be a shortage of between 25,000 to 33,000 drivers by the year 2020 due to the retirement of the baby boomers and other factors.
The issue of impaired driving and trucking is complex. Companies don’t want to face the higher premiums and possible liabilities of hiring someone with a conviction. On the other hand, a past conviction does not automatically mean the worker is unreliable or an unsafe driver.
The last Statistics Canada report on drinking and driving covers the year 2011, and reports that there were over 90,000 incidents. Rates of impaired driving spiked in the age group from 20-24 and decreased considerably after that from 800 per 100,000 licensed drivers to around 550 for drivers from 25-34. The numbers continue to drop as workers enter their 40s. These statistics show that most people adapt to the responsibilities of adulthood by curbing their risk-taking behaviour.
A second issue is the effect that being charged with a criminal offence has on the average person’s likelihood to reoffend. About two-thirds of people don’t reoffend. The embarrassment of being arrested and charged and having to pick up your car from a police impound lot prevents most people from continuing to drink and drive. Canada does have a problem with repeat offenders, especially those with alcohol dependency issues, but penalties would prevent these types of offenders from applying for positions in the truck driving industry. Once convicted of a second offence, most provinces and territories apply three year suspensions.
However, once a person has been driving for some time with a clean record many transport companies wonder if they should reject a driver with two children and a mortgage because of a drinking and driving conviction dating from his or her college days. This becomes more significant if the worker has relevant experience in other fields such as resources or warehousing and has proven their responsibility in other jobs.
Options for drivers
When drivers have been more or less been rehabilitated by no longer drinking and driving, they have a few options to put the past behind them and qualify for any job out there. The first is to apply for a pardon (or Record Suspension as it is now called by the Canadian government) and the second is to apply for a U.S. Entry Waiver. A U.S. Waiver allows people with criminal records to cross the border.
Currently, pardons are available to people with a summary offence after five years from their suspension and once the fines are all paid off. While a pardon will seal a person’s record from view, it won’t seal a driving record, so insurance companies may still charge more. Generally, insurance companies continue to charge more from six to 10 years after the offence. However, this will vary across the country. A person with a pardon may still have to wait up to five years before an employer is assured that they won’t be costing the company more.
Another obstacle is the Canada-US border. As the two countries are NAFTA trading partners, this can be a significant issue for many companies. Recent figures pin the amount of trade between the two countries at around $7 billion a year according to the office of the US Trade Representative.
Even those companies that aren’t shipping to the US now are likely to be considering it. Although a person with a pardon isn’t automatically approved to travel to the US, they can apply for an entry waiver. This document is issued for six months to five years. The Department of Homeland Security generally considers economic reasons, such as work, a compelling reason to issue a waiver.
While drinking and driving is a troubling issue in Canada, it’s important not to lose sight of the ability of most drivers to be rehabilitated and get back on the road safely. Through pardons and waivers it is possible for a person with a criminal record to overcome their past and have a safe and dependable career in the trucking industry.
About Pardon Services Canada: Pardon Services Canada is a national legal services company established in 1989. The company processes pardons (Record Suspensions) and US Entry Waivers and advocates nationally for a fair and accessible pardon system as an important rehabilitative step for the one in eight Canadians with criminal records. To learn more, visit www.pardonservicescanada.com.