Truck Drivers & Substance Abuse

January 08, 2021

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

Truck Drivers & Substance Abuse

Being a trucker is difficult work. Not only is the job solitary, but driving mile after mile for up to 70 hours a week can lead to boredom and fatigue. Trying to stay sharp is high on the list for many truck drivers who, unfortunately, turn to substances to gain an edge.

If you were involved in a truck accident, an impaired driver might be to blame. Please contact our firm to review the facts of your case. You might be entitled to compensation.

Truckers Use Many Different Substances

Truckers might take many different substances, which carry certain risks. For example, some truckers drink alcohol to deal with depression and loneliness. Alcohol is a depressant and can make drivers feel fatigued. It can also slow reflexes and impair a driver’s vision.

Marijuana is another choice that truckers take to relax. However, it can cause sleepiness and impair a person’s ability to make decisions.

Other truckers use drugs to stay awake during long haul trips. Popular choices to sharpen the mind include amphetamines and cocaine. These drugs have many side effects, including hallucination and agitation. Someone could also overdose on these drugs, dying as a result.

Drug Use is Prevalent

Many surveys over the years have looked at how many truck drivers use chemical substances. Many of these studies relied on truckers self-reporting their behavior, so we should consider these numbers to understate the problem. Nevertheless, even self-reported numbers are high—roughly 50% of truck drivers admitted to using amphetamines, for example. Roughly 20% admitted to using marijuana and 3% said they had used cocaine.

Even using drugs when off duty can be a problem. A driver who is hung over, for example, can expect his driving to be impaired even if he has not consumed any alcohol in hours. The effects of marijuana and cocaine can also linger.

Relatively harmless substances like caffeine can also create problems. Someone who relies on coffee to stay awake might “crash” even harder than if they had not drunk any coffee at all.

Drug Testing Can Be Spotty

According to federal regulations, truckers must pass a drug test before being employed to operate a commercial motor vehicle. They also must undergo drug and alcohol testing following certain accidents, such as those that result in a human fatality or bodily injury.

Federal guidelines also require random testing through the year and whenever there is reasonable suspicion of drug or alcohol use. For example, if a truck driver comes in stumbling and with bloodshot eyes, he should take a test. A trucking company should never let a driver operate a vehicle until they are confident the driver is not impaired.

Employers are responsible for running accurate, timely tests. Unfortunately, some of them cut corners. They might overlook an impaired driver, especially given the hiring shortage of qualified truck drivers in this country. Others might run incomplete tests—checking for alcohol use but not drug use. Innocent victims on the road pay the price when these truckers crash into them.

We Offer a Free Consultation

Truck accidents often lead to devastating injuries, but many of our clients qualify for compensation to cover their losses. Please contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP today to meet with an Indianapolis truck accident attorney.