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Truckers, Drugs and the State of American Transit

American Transit and who is drivingIt shouldn’t surprise anyone that some truckers use and abuse drugs. Career stresses, demanding professional requirements and other factors combine to make their jobs amazingly challenging. According to medical experts, such pressures can result in truckers being more prone to risky behaviors, such as drug use.
What does this mean for those who must share the road with semis and other commercial vehicles? Drug abuse only makes tough odds direr. Here’s why drug-taking truck drivers are more of a threat than you might think.

Trucker Drug Use by the Numbers

Truckers are like any other modern population — They have diverse backgrounds, values and personal leanings. While the vast majority of professional operators aren’t willing to risk their careers or other peoples’ lives, not every driver is quite so responsible.

A look at the stats only reinforces the idea that some drivers do drugs. Even worse, the numbers seem to indicate that armies of offenders may be slipping under the radar.

One report released in 2019 said that approximately 300,000 truckers get around the system of pre-employment drug tests mandated for all drivers. Because the U.S. Department of Transportation only holds urinalysis tests to be valid, drivers can time their usage or obscure their results to avoid detection. Unfortunately, random tests only apply to a small percentage of drivers.

Understanding the Risks: Which Drugs Do Truckers Use?

Although truck drivers vary, international studies have exposed a few interesting trends. For instance, one group of researchers analyzed years of different studies to reveal that the most commonly abused substances included alcohol, cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis. This report’s authors also found that truckers were more likely to use on the job when they

  • Were younger,
  • Had higher incomes, received performance-tied pay or earned wages that fell short of standard union rates,
  • Drove during the night hours or made longer-haul trips, and
  • Habitually consumed alcohol.

Different drugs have unique impacts on truckers. In general, however, users contend with alarming physiological and psychological challenges, such as reduced focus, lowered reaction times and persistent adverse side effects related to substances like amphetamines. These issues can dramatically increase the severity of accidents.

The Rules of Trucking and Drug Use

The majority of trucking companies take steps to keep drugged operators away from the road. After all, some of these enterprises may be held liable for actions taken by their employees, so it makes perfect sense for them to cover themselves.

There are numerous laws on the books prohibiting intoxicated driving, and the penalties for being caught taking drugs as a commercial driver are severe. The risk of losing their licenses doesn’t deter some truckers, however, so officials are moving beyond legislative efforts to combat the epidemic. For instance, in summer 2019, the International Association of Chiefs of Police partnered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to enhance law enforcement officers’ ability to recognize impaired truckers.

This program will see police receive more training on how to spot commercial operators that might be intoxicated before their bad decisions cause permanent harm. The only question is whether it will prove sufficient.

If heightened enforcement were all it took to make the roads safe, then nobody would ever get pulled over for drunk driving. In reality, all the checkpoints, police observation and employment policies in the world can’t catch every trucker who would risk operating while intoxicated. Some fraction of these individuals will inevitably slip through the cracks, and when they do, they could harm innocent motorists, passengers and pedestrians.

Intoxicated Truck Drivers and Your Legal Options

It’s not always easy to know where to turn after you’ve been hit by a trucker. Even though it might seem obvious that the commercial driver who chose to take drugs was at fault, real-life accidents aren’t always so straightforward.

Your well-intentioned lawsuit or legal action could run into roadblocks, such as if the trucking company’s employment policy placed limits on driver liability. Even if the jury finds the other party to be at fault, you might only receive a limited settlement or insurance payout. Talking to an attorney before filing your case is the only option if you want to sidestep such outcomes.