Marijuana, amphetamines, and cocaine, which can all impair reaction times, attention spans, and reflexes, are the three drugs most commonly used by truck drivers. When truckers use substances that put other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians at risk, they can be held liable for the injuries and deaths that result.
(Article continues below infographic)
Drug Impaired Truckers
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), in 2017 drug use among commercial truck drivers reached the highest level since 2009. Studies show that drug use among commercial truckers is common and about 1.98 percent of truck drivers failed drug tests in 2017. While that percentage may seem low, it represents about 107,000 truckers.
The most common drug used is marijuana. DOT officials state that the legalization of marijuana in many states has made the drug much more available and accessible. Marijuana use increases sleepiness and decreases concentration. In 2017, about 44,388 truckers tested positive for marijuana.
The second most common drug is amphetamines, also referred to as speed. DOT records show that 35,421 truck drivers failed drug tests due to amphetamine use in 2017.
Cocaine is the third most common drug truckers use. About 14, 939 truck drivers failed tests due to cocaine use.
Both amphetamines and cocaine act as stimulants, so they help truckers stay awake, but they affect distance perception and reaction time. They can also cause agitation, vertigo, and hallucinations. Fatigued truckers often take amphetamines and cocaine to stay alert, but they are increasing their risk for serious accidents and injuries on the road.
Although alcohol and opioid drugs did not make the top three drugs used by truckers, they are commonly used. Many truckers admit to drinking while driving. Alcohol, a depressant drug, reduces brain functions and impairs thinking skills, reasoning skills, decision-making skills, and muscle coordination, all essential functions needed to operate a commercial truck safely. The DOT does not currently test for opioid drugs like heroin and painkillers, but many truckers admit to using them.
The DOT requires drug testing for all commercial truck drivers to prevent impaired driving. Alcohol and drug tests are required after trucking accidents that result in commercial vehicle damage that requires towing, bodily injuries, and fatalities. Drivers who appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be immediately tested without warning, and random drug testing may be done throughout the year.