The trucking industry is vital to the U.S. economy, delivering goods to consumers across the country. Many assume those who drive large semi trucks are more skilled and careful than the average driver, since they control such large vehicles. However, many truck drivers put others’ safety at risk by driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  A study published in the October 2013 issue of Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed an alarming rate of substance abuse among commercial vehicle drivers . People should be aware of the extent of this problem, as well as the threat to public safety that it poses.

Examining substance abuse among truckers

Researchers looked at the data collected in 36 studies performed around the world dating back to 2000 and going through the present to try to get a sense of the extent to which truck drivers use drugs and alcohol while driving. A majority of the studies were conducted in large countries such as the U.S., Australia and Brazil, where trucking is common. Of the studies, 23 relied on truckers to report their chemical use and the other 13 used biological samples from truckers.

The studies showed that the most popular chemicals that truckers use are alcohol, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine. The rates of use of each chemical varied among the studies, and researchers hypothesized that the range was due to the differing methods of obtaining information. Biological samples tended to report lower use, due to the short window of time that most of the chemicals remain in the body.

Alcohol use among truckers while on the job ranged from 10 percent to 91 percent. The number of truckers using methamphetamines ranged from 0.2 percent to 82.5 percent. Marijuana use ranged from 0.2 percent to 30 percent, and cocaine use ranged from 0.1 percent to just over 8 percent.

Public safety threat

The rate with which truckers use alcohol and drugs while on the job is alarming because of the threat it holds for all those on the road. The researchers working on the study noted that alcohol and marijuana are known depressants, which work to dull reaction times and decrease coordination – and can lead to fatal accidents when a driver is operating a semi truck.

Many of the truckers responding to surveys of chemical use reported that they turned to amphetamines and cocaine as a way to battle fatigue. However, even though these drugs help fight tiredness, studies have shown that drivers using such stimulants take more risks and pay less attention to traffic laws.

Talk to an attorney

Any time a person gets behind the wheel after having consumed drugs or alcohol it puts others’ lives in danger. When the wheel that the driver gets behind steers a semi truck, the danger increases. Truck drivers have a duty to operate their rigs safely, and when they fail to meet that duty, others suffer. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, speak with a skilled truck accident lawyer who can help you recover for your losses.