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Arnold & Itkin LLP Truck Accident Blog2018AugustTrucking Under the Influence: An Epidemic on America’s Highways

Trucking Under the Influence: An Epidemic on America’s Highways

Trucks are the beasts of burden of the modern age, present on nearly every stretch of American highway. They weigh 40 tons and take up 80 feet of the road with growling vibrations of turbocharged diesel power. They haul our packages, carry our raw materials, and they connect the vital industries that build our economy. When not handled safely, these beasts can bite. Under the right guidance, these machines power the nation’s economy. However, many of our nation's truck operators are not sober and threaten the safety of everyone on the road.

Sleep at the Wheel. Death on the Road.

Deaths caused by trucks are rapidly increasing. A study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) revealed that trucking accidents increased and became deadlier as the economy improved from 2009 to 2013. This period saw fatal truck accidents increase at a startling rate of 17.3 percent. In 2013 alone, 3,541 truck accidents resulted in the deaths of 3,964 individuals.

The correlation between the improving economy and the accident rate suggests that truck drivers are having trouble meeting the increase in demand for their services. High demand is encouraging truck drivers to fake their log books, drive longer hours, and place every life they share the road with at risk. Long hours are causing truck drivers across the nation to fall asleep or turn to drugs to keep them awake.

Substance Abuse & Truck Drivers

Truck drivers rely on the effects of alcohol and drugs for many reasons. Once used as a remedy for loneliness and depression while on the road, substance abuse has become a common method of staying awake behind the wheel to meet the increasingly challenging demands of long hours and tight deadlines. Some desperate truck drivers have turned to amphetamines to help them cope with demand. Traditionally used to treat ADHD and narcolepsy, amphetamines stimulate the nervous system.

As truck drivers use amphetamines to keep them awake for longer periods of time, they experience dangerous amounts of fatigue as they force their bodies to function with no rest. Adding to the danger of fatigue are the side effects associated with amphetamines—irritability, hallucinations, and delusions make truck drivers on stimulants dangerous to share the road with.

When the effects of amphetamines are too strong, drivers turn to alcohol and marijuana to help them come down from the high—another recipe for disaster. These substances slow reaction time, alter thought processes and impair a driver’s ability to make safe decisions.

Quantifying the Problem

The world of driving while using drugs is a difficult one to explore as there is a layer of secrecy to the illicit activity. The use of drugs to stay awake rests at the underbelly of the trucking world; its exposure could unleash reforms that would cut into the ability of companies to work their employees over longer hours. While it’s hard to pin exactly how many people take amphetamines, it is possible to obtain a general idea by examining existing data.

One Brazilian university compiled information from 36 studies to paint a picture of drug use in the global trucking industry. Though the study examined large countries that relied on trucking, it uncovered some revealing information about the business in the United States. The study found that the nation had the highest frequency of truckers who tested positive for drinking on the job at 12.5 percent. At a global scale, the study found that 29.5 percent of the world’s drivers admitted to relying on amphetamines.

Recent domestic studies also provide unsettling information regarding the safety of American roads, After random drug testing in 2016, the U.S. Department of Health found 35,421 drivers that tested positive for amphetamines. This report also found an increase in drug use by employees across every category and revealed that the nation’s drivers are using substances at record rates.

Preventing Drug-Related Truck Accidents

Extensive legal reform is the most obvious answer to dangerous trucking practices. These accidents will continue to happen until companies are held accountable for the long hours and low pay they force on employees. Ultimately, reckless profit chasing on the part of trucking companies are to blame as employees struggle to keep up with demand. By neglecting safety, these companies place a strain on their employees and are responsible for the increasing death and injury rates each year in the United States. Profits are never worth the cost of human life.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by substance abuse, call our truck accident attorneys today at (888) 490-0442. We have built a history of victories that prove we will fight to get you back on your feet. Consultation is free, and you do not pay unless we win your case.


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