Volvo CE may roll out operator breathalyser tests after Swedish trial

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Volvo Construction Equipment is looking at breathalysing all visitors who want to operate machinery at its customer centres around the world, following a successful trial at its test-drive facility in Sweden.

Volvo CE may roll out operator breathalyser tests after Swedish trial
A group of equipment testers at Volvo CE's Eskilstuna Customer Center in Sweden.

The Eskilstuna Customer Center hosts over 25,000 people each year (most arriving by bus) and about half of those operate the Volvo equipment available in the test yard.

"We want everyone who comes to the Customer Center to enjoy themselves," says Volvo CE customer centre and events manager Carl Gindahl. "But we also have an obligation to make sure everyone who visits us remains safe.

"As it is, we have operators with differing levels of skill and experience, and that brings enough challenges as it is – so needing them to be sober is a basic requirement. Thankfully we have never had an alcohol-related incident – or accident of any kind, in fact – but only preventative measures will ensure it stays that way."

Gindahl says they are using the same equipment as used by the Swedish police and have also introduced the same blood-alcohol limit defined by Swedish law – 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

That’s a limit of 0.02 percent — far lower than Australia’s 0.05 percent.

Volvo CE initially did random spot checks on people, but at the 2013 Volvo Days it was decided that everyone who wanted to operate equipment had to do the test. There was some concern that visitors might view the move as unnecessary or overbearing, the company says, but the reaction has been "surprisingly positive", with no fall in the numbers of people wanting to operate the machines.

"If you want to drive the equipment, you have to do the test – it’s as simple as that," Gindahl says. "We’re not trying to make criminals out of our visitors – it’s just about safety, nothing more. And our guests respect that and aren’t offended to be asked to take the test. I’ve not had a single negative comment about it – nor has anyone refused to take a test."

Other customer centres around the world, as well as certain sections of Volvo Trucks, are also showing interest in introducing the practice, Gindahl says.

"It’s not a trial anymore, its policy – and one that is supported by everyone," he says. "We only have two rules when it comes to testing the machines – you have to be at least 18 years old and you have to be sober. We sometimes bend the rules for technical apprentices younger than 18 – but we never make exceptions on being sober."

We have asked Volvo CE’s Australian representative, CJD Equipment, if it has any similar plans, but have not yet received any comment.

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