The number of drivers working for De Lijn who tested positive for alcohol at work has increased in recent years, resulting in ministers calling for increased checks.
Last year, a total of 19 drivers tested positive during preventive alcohol and drug checks carried out by De Lijn, according to figures shared by Flemish Minister of Mobility Lydia Peeters upon the request of Flemish CD&V party leader Peter Van Rompuy.
In the last five years, the number of people testing positive during these tests, carried out as part of De Lijn's policy to raise awareness of alcohol and drugs at work has increased. In 2020, 13 drivers were apprehended during the tests, up from 10 in 2019.
"This is unacceptable. Alcohol and drugs never go together with driving. You do not only endanger yourself but also others," said Van Rompuy, who stressed that bus drivers are sometimes responsible for the lives of dozens of passengers.
Although he recognised that this is a small share out of a workforce of about 8,000 drivers, he stressed that "this small share can cause a great deal of havoc."
Increased checks mean more people caught
The company itself responded that, as it is a cross-section of society, it is "logical that social problems also sometimes manifest themselves there."
These statistics have resulted in calls for stricter and more frequent checks to be carried out by De Lijn, however, according to the public transport operator's spokesperson Karen Van der Sype, the number of checks has already increased in recent years. "This is also why there is a higher number of positive tests," she told The Brussels Times.
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The number of positive drug tests is also increasing In 2021, 10 staff members tested positive, while in 2020 there was one staff member.
Strict policy and counselling
Drivers who test positive during the checks are immediately suspended for safety reasons and may only resume work after the occupational doctor has decided that the employee is fit for work.
"This happens based on additional results and is therefore determined individually," Van der Sype said.
Meanwhile, the company aims to discuss, prevent and remedy dysfunction due to alcohol, drugs or medication use from the moment a person is employed. Employees can also themselves report their occasional or chronic use of alcohol, drugs or medication to their social worker, manager or occupational physician.
"De Lijn strongly encourages this spontaneous reporting so that problematic use can be tackled via a guidance programme," Van der Sype concluded.