Trucking industry fears U.S. regulators will punish Manitoba drivers who unknowingly received fake drug tests
Owner of Precision Health Ltd. is charged with fraud, forgery
The Manitoba Trucking Association is asking American regulators to clarify whether some local trucking companies that haul to the U.S. are in compliance with regulations in the wake of charges against the operator of a Winnipeg drug testing company.
Winnipeg police have charged Colleen Faye Robinson, owner of Precision Health Ltd., with fraud and forgery-related offences after an investigation found Precision allegedly falsified the drug and alcohol test results of dozens of unsuspecting truck drivers.
In search warrant documents filed in provincial court in Winnipeg, police allege at least 32 Manitoba trucking companies may have received fake test results between May 2017 and September 2018.
Now the trucking association is asking the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration whether companies who dealt with Precision will have to retest their drivers, said Manitoba Trucking Association executive director Terry Shaw.
"Our concern right now is, are our members compliant? And they have yet to be able to answer that," Shaw said.
He said the case appears to be unique in the local transportation industry.
"I've been in the trucking industry since the mid-'90s and I've never heard of anything like this," Shaw said.
Asked about the trucking association's concerns, U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson Duane DeBruyne declined to comment.
'Very stringent requirements' in U.S.
U.S. regulations require Canadian commercial truck drivers to pass drug and alcohol screening tests before they travel to the United States, but the same requirements are not in effect in Canada.
Drivers who travel to the U.S. have their urine tested before they are hired, and then are randomly selected to be tested throughout their employment.
"Rules and regulations for truck drivers in Canada are much different than those of the United States," said Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray.
"The United States Department of Transportation has very stringent requirements, including the use of an accredited lab and a medical officer for review, and it can be an extensive and expensive process to obtain certification to drive to the United States," Murray said.
The Winnipeg Police Service has been in contact with the United States Department of Transportation, he added.
The police investigation into Precision Health is still underway, Murray said, adding "there is the potential for other people to be charged as the investigation expands."
So far the only person charged is company owner Colleen Robinson, also known as Colleen Gies, according to court records.
Robinson did not return calls to CBC News about the police allegations, which have not been proven in court.
Trucking companies weren't aware: police
In the search warrant documents, police said normally, Precision Health collected urine samples from Manitoba truck drivers and sent the samples to the U.S. for testing at a lab called Quest Diagnostics.
The lab results were then supposed to be sent to a different company in Barrie, Ont., called Acculab, to be analyzed by a Canadian doctor who would write a report.
Precision would then give the reports to the trucking companies and charge $80 for facilitating the tests, the search warrant documents said.
In May 2017, Acculab discovered Precision had been allegedly fabricating test results and claiming they were reviewed when they hadn't been.
Murray said investigators attribute the alleged falsification of test reports to "financial difficulties" on the part of the Precision Health's owner.
"The owner of the company fell into … arrears with at least one or two different testing companies. And so she wasn't able to send those samples to get properly tested," said Murray.
At first I didn't really believe it … that someone would go to the lengths of fabricating or creating these fake reports.- Acculab president Tim Salter
He said the trucking companies were unaware at the time that the samples had not been properly tested.
"There's nothing to suggest that positive test samples were altered to show negative results," Murray said.
The City of Winnipeg had also used the services of Precision Health, including for Winnipeg Transit drivers.
"The City was made aware of these charges this morning [Wednesday], and we are now looking into this further with our Occupational Health staff," said Alissa Clark, communications manager for Winnipeg Transit.
'One company that made some bad choices'
Acculab in Ontario is the company that initially discovered the alleged fraud. President Tim Salter said that in May 2017, his company got a call from a trucker who had questions about a drug testing report that Acculab couldn't find in its files.
"We thought right away, 'This has got to be some sort of administrative error,'" Salter said.
He said Acculab then discovered Quest Diagnostics had not released the test results to Precision Health because the Winnipeg company's account was in arrears, causing Salter to fear the report sent to the trucker was fake.
"At first I didn't really believe it … that someone would go to the lengths of fabricating or creating these fake reports," he said.
"I just thought, 'This has gotta be an oversight. There's no way that someone would do this on purpose.'"
Salter said Acculab launched an internal investigation and, after discovering the problem was more widespread than suspected, reported it to police.
"This is the first time we've ever encountered something like this. This is not a normal occurrence in our industry," Salter said.
"We have an obligation to hold all service agents and service providers to a very high standard because of the nature of the testing we're doing.… This isn't something that we could just brush under the carpet."
Salter now hopes the outcome doesn't reflect negatively on the drug and alcohol testing industry.
"This is just one company that made some bad choices. The other hundreds of companies that provide drug and alcohol testing services across Canada work at the highest level of competency and standards," Salter said.