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Drug and Alcohol Use by Commercial Truck Drivers Has Reached Dangerous Levels

Drug and Alcohol Use by Commercial Truck Drivers Has Reached Dangerous LevelsEvery day, commercial truck drivers crisscross the vast network of highways that connect our nation’s cities and towns, carrying the lifeblood of our economy in the cargo they haul. These dedicated professionals are the backbone of the transportation industry, responsible for the safe and timely delivery of goods we rely on for our daily lives. However, as the wheels of commerce keep turning, an alarming phenomenon has taken shape — the commonplace use of drugs and alcohol among commercial truck drivers.

According to recent data from the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, drug use among commercial drivers is higher than ever. A staggering 18% of truckers either failed or refused drug tests for products such as:

  • Cannabis: The psychoactive compound in cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is sometimes used for pain relief and mood improvement. While some states have legalized its use, the cognitive effects of cannabis make it illegal to use on the road. This was the drug most commonly detected in the tests.
  • Stimulants: These “upper” drugs, such as amphetamines, can bring about a short-term increase in energy and alertness. While they may temporarily alleviate fatigue, they can also lead to jitteriness, increased heart rate, and heightened anxiety.
  • Opioids: These “downer” drugs, including prescription pain medications and illicit substances like heroin, act as central nervous system depressants, slowing down brain activity and dulling pain signals. This can lead to drowsiness, slowed reaction times, and impaired decision-making abilities.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol’s effects are similar to those of other depressants, slowing motor function and coordination, impairing judgment, and causing sleepiness. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for regular drivers is 0.08%, but for commercial truckers, the limit is 0.04%.

Risks of truck driving while impaired

The consequences of impaired driving are well-known to anyone who has ever glanced at a roadside memorial, listened to a news report, or, worse, experienced the devastating effects firsthand. Yet when a commercial truck, with its tremendous size and weight, becomes a weapon due to the influence of drugs or alcohol, the results can be particularly catastrophic.

Accidents involving commercial trucks and impaired drivers often result in significantly more severe injuries and extensive damage compared to other types of collisions and are more likely to kill those involved. This is not only because of the size of these vehicles, but also due to the inherent nature of their handling. It can be challenging enough for an impaired driver to react in time to avoid a collision, but with commercial trucks, their limited maneuverability and longer stopping distances add yet another layer of difficulty.

Why commercial truckers drive while impaired

Commercial truck drivers face unique challenges in their profession, often contending with long hours on the road, irregular schedules, and the need to remain alert and focused at all times. These pressures can sometimes lead to the use of substances that drivers believe will help them stay awake, alleviate pain, or cope with the demands of the job.

  • Long hauls: For truckers facing extended hours on the road, stimulants like amphetamines are often used to ward off fatigue and maintain alertness.
  • Physical discomfort: The physically demanding nature of the job, combined with the potential for injuries or chronic pain, can lead truckers to seek relief through heavy painkillers or other opioids.
  • Stress relief: As commercial truck drivers struggle to meet tight deadlines and manage complex schedules, they may turn to alcohol to alleviate pressures and reduce stress.
  • Mood enhancement: Long hours on the road often translate to boredom, loneliness, and in some cases, depression. Truckers may use cannabis to help them relax and improve their mood.

Federal and state regulations

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations establish the baseline standards for drug and alcohol testing, while individual states may have additional requirements. These regulations cover a wide range of aspects, including testing protocols, permissible substances, and consequences for non-compliance.

The penalties for commercial truck drivers found to be using drugs or alcohol while operating a vehicle are severe. Violations can result in fines, termination, and even criminal charges in cases of serious impairment or accidents. Also, a truck driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) may be suspended or revoked, effectively barring them from operating commercial vehicles.

Personal injury claims for accidents caused by impaired truckers

In the unfortunate event of an accident caused by an impaired commercial truck driver, pursuing a personal injury claim provides a way for victims to seek compensation for damages incurred. This process typically involves working with law enforcement and insurance companies to establish liability and the extent of the injuries and other losses. However, most importantly, it is highly advised that victims of trucking accidents engage the services of a skilled Chattanooga personal injury attorney at Wagner Workers Compensation & Personal Injury Lawyers who can protect their rights and help them maximize the compensation they are able to receive.

Workers’ compensation claims for injured truck drivers

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol while operating a commercial vehicle is considered a violation of workplace safety policies and excludes injured truckers from being able to receive worker’s compensation. However, for unimpaired truck drivers who sustain injuries while on the job, pursuing a worker’s compensation claim offers a reliable way to obtain the necessary support and benefits.

To be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits, the injured truck driver must have been injured while performing job-related duties. This includes accidents not caused by impairment, as well as injuries sustained from lifting or moving cargo, constant sitting, or any other task directly related to their responsibilities as a commercial truck driver. As with personal injury claims, those pursuing worker’s compensation claims should consider working with an experienced attorney to navigate the process successfully.

Commercial truck driving comes with dangers that affect both the truckers themselves and everyone else on the road. At Wagner Workers Compensation & Personal Injury Lawyers, we understand that the consequences of trucking accidents can be devastating, and are dedicated to helping victims recover physically, emotionally, and financially. If you’ve suffered an injury in a commercial trucking accident, call our knowledgeable legal team or submit our contact form today to set up a free case review. We proudly serve clients in and around Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, and North Georgia.