What to Know About Truck Drivers and Substance Abuse

Driving a truck is not an easy job. Long hours alone on the road, difficult night shifts and mounting pressure from employers can push truck drivers to their limits. The difficulties of life on the road may be why the truck industry is seeing historically low rates of drivers. Those who do try to make a career in truck driving work could face personal and professional struggles – including substance abuse. Drugs can make truck driving dangerous for all involved.

Truck Drivers Have a History of Health Problems

Trucking does not have a reputation for being the healthiest occupation in the country. Drivers may spend several hours at a time mostly sitting down, with only occasional breaks. Most do not bring their own lunches but instead, eat at truck stops and fast food chains while on the road. The difficult lifestyle behind the wheel of a big rig has led to a trend of health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular problems and sleep apnea.

A national survey of truck driver health from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that obesity rates were more than twice as high in long-haul truck drivers than the average working population. The rate of morbid obesity was also more than doubled. In addition, long-haul truckers are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. About 51% of truckers said they were current cigarette smokers, compared to 19% of the general working population.

Health issues can contribute to substance abuse. Trouble sleeping due to sleep apnea, for example, could lead to a truck driver trying sleeping pills for a better night’s rest. A drowsy truck driver may also turn to drugs to feel more awake during a long shift. Chronic pain from sitting for long hours could lead to painkiller addiction. Obesity can cause mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, also pushing a truck driver toward drugs. Healthy habits may not be part of the average long-haul trucker’s repertoire, making it too easy for some to abuse drugs.

Common Drugs Truckers Use on the Job

The drugs most long-haul truck drivers use on the job are not illicit substances, but rather over-the-counter (OTC) drugs that could have still dangerous side effects for the driver. Even simple cough or cold medicines could cause fatigue and a drowsy driving truck accident, for example. Many truckers are not aware of the risks of taking certain OTC medications. Yet some truckers are guilty of more serious and intentional substance abuse involving illegal drugs.

  • Cocaine
  • Speed
  • Methamphetamine
  • Marijuana
  • Opioids (painkillers)
  • Heroin

The current opioid crisis increases the odds of truckers abusing opioids such as prescription painkillers and heroin. However, most arrests and accidents involving drugged truck drivers in the past name stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines as the culprits. Truck drivers may be more likely to use stimulants than other workers due to the need to stay awake for long hours on the road, especially during night shifts. Taking any drug, legal or illegal, could compromise a trucker’s ability to drive safely.

What To Do After a DWI Truck Accident

It is against the law in Texas to operate any motor vehicle under the influence of impairing drugs or alcohol. Impairing drugs may influence a driver’s thoughts, reaction times, judgment, cognitive function or motor skills. If you get into a truck accident with a driver you suspect has abused a substance, call the police. Then, contact a truck accident attorney. A lawyer can investigate your case and potentially gather evidence of the truck driver’s substance abuse, such as drugs in the vehicle or positive drug test results. If the truck driver was under the influence of drugs at the time of your accident, the truck company could owe you compensation for your damages.

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