Truck Driver Substance Abuse Research Study

Truck driver substance abuse the topic of new research study

Large commercial vehicles, everything from local delivery trucks to big rigs, are all around us. The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) reports that trucks move more than $8.3 trillion worth of goods (an astonishing 11 billion tons) annually.

Since most trucks travel hundreds of miles a day, there are an estimated million (or so) registered trucks operating in the United States at any given time, and large trucks travel hundreds of millions of miles a year, 18-wheelers and other semi trucks are generally a safe way to move massive amounts of freight in a short time.

Tragically, not all semi trucks make it to their destination safely. The United States Department of Transportation reports that an average of nearly 3,700 people die each year – and about 19,000 are injured – in accidents involving large commercial trucks. There are many different causes of trucking accidents, including:

  • Improper load balancing
  • Overweight cargo loads that are too much for the driver to handle or that cause safety systems in the truck to fail
  • Improper maintenance leading to brake or transmission failure
  • Tire blow-outs
  • Driver fatigue from driving too many hours without sufficient rest (this often goes hand-in-hand with forged log books or violation of hours-of-service regulations)
  • Speeding
  • Inadequate training on how to deal with changes in roadway, traffic or weather conditions
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

A recent study with an unusual perspective

A recent study performed by a Brazilian University (examining American truck accident data and driver surveys) undertook an in-depth study of one cause of truck accidents: driver drug or alcohol use. The study specifically looked at why some truckers are tempted to drive under the influence of these substances.

While there were wildly different use rates from country-to-country and from year-to-year, some common themes emerged from the study’s data. Drug and alcohol users are typically younger drivers out to “prove themselves,” those with higher pay rates and those with the longest routes that often involve night-time driving. They also tended to have been involved in at least one major accident and have been accused of violating one or more traffic regulations (ticketed) in the past.

The overwhelming reason why truckers would look to outside substances? Money. Those who are tempted by a drug’s “quick fix” ability to increase alertness assume that they can drive longer hours, thus making more money, if they take drugs. Of course, that can start a vicious cycle of taking one substance to stay alert and needing another to relax once the truck has stopped. And that doesn’t take into account the obviously negative possible impacts of drugs, like hallucinations, jitteriness, a sense of “invincibility,” slowed reaction times or shortened attention spans.

Have you been hurt by a drunk truck driver?

Regardless of the reasons behind a truck driver’s alcohol or drug abuse, the simple truth is that the practice of driving while intoxicated can be fatal not only for the driver himself, but also for others sharing the road. Have you been injured – or tragically endured the wrongful death of a loved one – due to the negligent actions of a trucker or trucking company? Do you need help standing up for your rights? If so, an experienced truck accident attorney in your area can provide you with more information about your legal rights and options.