How Common is Substance Abuse Among Truck Drivers?

Truck drivers already face a highly stressful and demanding job. Transporting tons of expensive cargo safely across the country, dealing with traffic and hazards, and meeting deadlines can take a toll on hardworking drivers. One of the largest problems facing truck drivers is lack of sleep. Driving while drowsy and sleep apnea both affect a truck driver’s ability to safely operate a large semi-truck on highways shared with other vehicles.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that in 2017, almost 5,000 large trucks and buses were part of fatal traffic crashes. These deaths accounted for a 9% increase from the previous year, in 2016. Since 2009 and until 2017, these fatal crashes increased by 42%. Serious injuries from large truck and bus accidents also increased from 2016 to 2017 by 4%.

Many factors can contribute to accidents that involve trucks. Sleep Apnea, a breathing-related sleep disorder, can be life-threatening. FMCSA identified that 28% of commercial truck drivers are suffering from this disorder. Sleep apnea affects your ability to get a good night’s rest, and as a result, it will impair your ability to be alert during the day.

For truckers who must be on top of their game while they operate their large, heavy vehicles, an inability to be attentive is highly dangerous for everyone. Many studies on sufferers of Sleep Apnea show an increased risk for motor vehicle accidents. While sleep issues are certainly a prevalent topic for commercial truck drivers, are they the only issue affecting these transportation professionals’ ability to share our roads safely?

Substance Abuse and Truckers

Any driver who is inebriated by either alcohol or drugs while behind the wheel poses an imminent threat to others. Truckers are a tremendous hazard when they take to the road intoxicated. When one of these massive trucks, which can weigh upward of 50,000 lbs, collides with smaller vehicles or even into a road barrier, the results are often catastrophic due to the semi’s size, force, and momentum.

According to the American Addiction Centers, there is a substance abuse epidemic within the trucking industry that government regulators are having difficulty tackling. The life of a trucker is solitary and many drivers will not only battle chronic fatigue, but they also understandably get bored and lonely. To combat these feelings some truckers will use drugs and alcohol as a form of entertainment and escape from overwhelming emotions. Others engage in specific substance use like amphetamines so that they can keep themselves awake long enough to get their jobs done.

How Many Truck Drivers are Intoxicated While on the Job?

Studies have considered this question and found that alcohol is the most commonly abused substance amongst truckers. Approximately 90% of those interviewed admitted that they consumed alcohol while on the job. There is no doubt, truck drivers who drink while they are operating their vehicles present a substantial hazard to the public.

Alcohol in the system can affect one’s ability to drive. Driving drunk or even just “tipsy’’ can cause the following:

While alcohol was the most consumed substance, 82.5% of truckers also admitted to using amphetamines while on the road. Amphetamines help a person stay up longer, which in theory might seem like a good thing for drivers. The reality is that when you force your body to stay up longer, and the drugs wear off, you are at a higher risk for dozing off behind the wheel. The body needs adequate rest to function, and artificially stimulating it to operate beyond its natural threshold is unhealthy and dangerous.

Trucking companies are notorious for assigning younger, more inexperienced drivers to the longest routes, which often require overnight travel. To keep their jobs and meet the demands of their profession, they are more at risk of being tempted to use cocaine or amphetamines. Even though trucking companies will deny that they want their employees to work long shifts, the reality is that these companies enjoy a great financial benefit when their workers put in extended hours.

It is not likely that the trucking culture is going to change anytime soon. That means that there are increased risks for others on the roads when many tucks are present. Trucking culture is not just a problem brought about by companies looking out for their own financial gains. Truckers themselves are also motivated for economic reasons, and who can blame them? Veteran and most specifically newer drivers are eager to take on opportunities to earn extra money, even if it comes at the expense of their own health and safety and that of others.

Have You Been Injured in a Trucking Accident in Virginia?

Barney Injury Law is the Hampton Roads personal injury attorney you want representing your best interests when you have been victimized in Virginia. Scott R. Barney, Esq. was born and raised in the Virginia Beach region. He has helped countless Virginians who have been harmed by the negligence of others.

If you have been injured in a traffic accident involving a large truck, I am the Virginia Beach truck accident attorney you want supporting and protecting your legal rights. Do not hesitate to call my Virginia Beach serious injury law office to set up a free consultation at (757) 296-8343 today.

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