A new discovery from a recent study may influence the decision to incorporate new testing procedures for truckers. The recent study reveals that cocaine use among truck drivers may be an underreported phenomenon. Because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) testing procedures do not include hair tests, the U.S. Department of Transportation may be culpable of underreporting the number of truck drivers using harder substances like cocaine.
Prior to 2020, the FMCSA clearinghouse data revealed that marijuana was the main substance that truck drivers tested positive for during pre-employment drug screenings. However, in 2020 the University of Central Arkansas (UCA) discovered an additional 58,910 truck drivers that would have tested positive for cocaine use had the hair testing procedures been incorporated in the drug screening process.
How common is drug use among truck drivers?
According to the American Addiction Centers, drug use among truck drivers is relatively high. Because truck drivers must stay awake for long periods of time, some of the common drugs of choice are cocaine and amphetamines. In fact, 30 percent of truck drivers admitted to abusing amphetamines in a study conducted by the American Addiction Centers. In regards to alcohol use, American-based truckers held the highest frequency of positive alcohol tests nationwide.
In addition to cocaine and marijuana, truck drivers also abuse substances such as methamphetamines, heroin, and opioids. Truck drivers abuse these types of substances to help stay awake while working their shifts. In some cases, truck drivers can even abuse ADD and ADHD medication such as Adderall and Ritalin to help remain awake behind the wheel.
The strenuous nature of the trucking profession contributes to the high frequency of drug use among truck drivers. Prior to the pandemic, truck drivers were required to travel for extended periods of time across the nation’s highways to deliver cargo at a specific deadline. This meant that truck drivers were required to forego rest and routine schedules to meet their clients’ needs.
With the need for specific cargo expanding nationwide since the pandemic, truck drivers are expected to spend additional time traveling and transporting cargo for even longer amounts of time. The longer shifts behind the wheel lead to truck drivers turning to drug substances to self-medicate.
The consequences of drug use by truck drivers
Regardless of the type of drug that a truck driver abuses, his or her mind is significantly altered, as well as the ability to operate a commercial truck in a responsible and secure manner.
Slower reaction times
One of the ways that drug use impacts a truck driver’s ability to drive is a reduction in reaction times. Drugs such as opioids and marijuana affect a truck driver’s capability of reacting to changes in upcoming traffic. The driver’s ability to judge their stopping distances is significantly impaired by the use of drugs.
Increase of aggressive driving behaviors
Another consequence of drug use on truck drivers is the increase of aggressive driving behaviors. Stimulants such as cocaine are consumed in higher doses because the high is temporary. Truck drivers who abuse cocaine repeatedly can experience symptoms of irritability, paranoia, restlessness, and panic attacks. These symptoms can influence truck drivers to engage in aggressive and risky driving behaviors while operating a commercial truck.
Other stimulants such as amphetamines can influence a truck driver to engage in aggressive driving by lowering the truck driver’s inhibition and increasing the driver’s impulses. Truck drivers who abuse drugs are accustomed to engaging in risky driving behaviors like driving too quickly for the road conditions.
Ironically, the drugs that truck drivers consume to prevent drowsiness while driving cause truck drivers to experience drowsiness. Truck drivers are even more prone to falling asleep while driving while under the influence of hard substances. After the effects of the drug wear off, the truck driver is going to feel more exhausted than ever. Truck drivers who suffer from drowsiness are at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel and veering off into the roadway.
Catastrophic injuries from drugged driving accidents
Drugged truck drivers are more likely to cross lines and medians, hit objects or other vehicles, and miss important signs regarding traffic. All of these events are more likely to occur on major highways, where there are multiple other vehicles, because NJ limits where tractor-trailers can travel. Truckers who are under the influence can suffer injuries in a collision, but the greater chance of injury will be to other drivers, pedestrians, and motorcycle riders who share the roads. Those injuries can include:
- Crushing injuries, leading to amputation/ loss of limb
- Spinal cord damage, including permanent paralysis
- Traumatic brain injury and other forms of head trauma
- Multiple broken bones
- Organ and internal tissue damages
- Burn injuries
- Toxic chemical exposure (if it’s a HAZMAT truck)
In the most tragic circumstances, a person can die in a crash with a commercial truck.
What can I do if I’m hit by a drugged truck driver? If you or your loved one is injured in a collision with a commercial vehicle, you can file a claim or a lawsuit to seek damages for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You can also seek compensation for your property loss. If your loves one dies, you can file a wrongful death suit.
Because of the nature of commercial truck accidents, there could be multiple liable parties, including the truck driver and the company for which he or she works. Your best bet is to work with an experienced NJ truck accident lawyer on your case.
The New Jersey personal injury law firm of Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP represents victims of truck accidents throughout New Jersey. Our lawyers represent family members of fatal accident victims. From offices in Edison, Red Bank and Toms River, we are proud of our record of holding trucking companies and their drivers accountable when they hurt innocent people. Call our office at 732-777-0100, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. We also offer free home and hospital visits.
Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP has purposely remained small in size, because it is important to us that we get to know our clients and their needs. Larger NJ injury firms may churn out case after case, but that’s not how we operate. Partners Barry Eichen, William Crutchlow, and Daryl Zaslow have created a firm with the resources to handle complex litigation, and a team that takes your case personally.
Find out more about Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP