Truckers Driving Under the Influence
Driving a commercial big rig truck is a hard, lonely business. Given the monotony, long hours, and extended driving periods that are a natural part of long haul truck driving, truckers often rely on stimulants to sustain their attention and combat driver fatigue.
Some drivers even came up with a secret name for it, “White Line Fever,” as popularized in the song by Merle Haggard. Unfortunately, scientific research demonstrates that the use of stimulants such as amphetamines may seem to improve some cognitive functions in truck drivers but ultimately impairs driving ability, increasing the chances of having a crash, wreck, or collision.
Types of Drugs Used by Truck Drivers
The types of drugs used by truck drivers to maintain focus and combat driver fatigue produce euphoric effects similar to those found during cocaine use. The truck driver experiences a “rush” for a constrained amount of time, typically followed by periods of exhaustion, anxiety, and depression. The need to avoid the adverse effects of these “uppers” often lead truck drivers into addiction. Let’s examine the most common classes of drugs used by truck drivers more closely.
Amphetamines and Cocaine
The most common drugs in the commercial trucking industry are cocaine and amphetamines. Both create a temporary sense of euphoria and energy, but ultimately also seriously impair a truck driver’s ability to drive safely.
Cocaine causes the blood vessels to contract, which can also cause high blood pressure and an increased heart rate. Mental and behavioral effects associated with this drug can also include anxiety and agitation, which can contribute to “road rage” conditions that can contribute to a truck accident. Truck drivers who use cocaine may also experience full-blown paranoid psychosis, which can lead to auditory and visual hallucinations.
Amphetamines have very similar physical effects to cocaine because they both stimulate the central nervous system. Physicians often prescribe derivatives of amphetamines for narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders, and depression. All amphetamine classes are highly addictive drugs. Side effects that can be dangerous for someone behind the wheel include dizziness, tremors, blurred vision, aggression, confusion, lack of physical coordination, delusions, and hallucinations.
Methamphetamines, sometimes known as “glass,” “crank,” or “crystal,” are a form of illegal drugs whose use became widespread in the 1990s. These drugs have similar effects to amphetamines, but they carry a much higher level of potency. Users may smoke, snort, inject or swallow various forms of meth, and it’s extremely addictive. In a recent study, a wide majority of truckers admitted that meth is highly accessible at truck stops across the country, creating an extraordinarily dangerous environment for other drivers exposed to truckers driving under the influence.
Truck drivers may not only take drugs to combat driver fatigue. They may also take stimulants in order to counteract the influence of other drugs, including marijuana and alcohol. Driving under these circumstances poses serious dangers to anyone else on the road, particularly if truck drivers are operating their vehicles under the influence of multiple drugs, alcohol, and stimulants.
Zero Tolerance on Drug, Alcohol Abuse
According to state and federal laws, commercial trucking operators are supposed to uphold a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to drug or alcohol use by their drivers. Federal regulations make it illegal for any truck driver to use alcohol or controlled substances while on duty or within four hours of performing trucking job functions.
Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard than passenger vehicle drivers regarding DUI laws. Anyone holding a commercial driver’s license will be charged in Texas with drunk driving if his or her blood-alcohol content (BAC) registers .04 or higher.
Commercial operators are also required to conduct random drug and alcohol tests, and can conduct more comprehensive tests if they suspect a driver is violating rules on substance use. If a truck driver is involved in any accident involving a severe or fatal injury, the driver must be tested for drugs or alcohol, and the driver isn’t allowed to use alcohol within eight hours of the accident to allow the appropriate time for testing.
However, there are problems with these rules. Commercial trucking operators don’t always conduct random substance tests, or may not do them often enough to meet the threshold of the law. If a driver had a previous substance abuse problem and the driver’s employer knew about it, the employer can be liable for the driver’s conduct in the event of an accident. Some trucking companies will also pay a fine for failing to ensure a driver was tested following an accident because the fine may be significantly less expensive than paying damages in a trucking accident lawsuit.
Factors that Contribute To Truck Drivers Driving Under the Influence
Determining why truck drivers succumb to the desire to use drugs, alcohol or stimulants is fairly simple and largely based in economics and behavior. They include:
- The desire of commercial over-the-road drivers to make more money by driving more hours than is allowed by law.
- Trying to meet unreasonable delivery deadlines imposed by supervisors or commercial trucking operations that have the driver under contract.
- Succumbing to the pressures of driving a commercial truck including fatigue, loneliness, depression or anxiety.
Contact Our Team for Accidents Involving Truck Drivers Under the Influence
The Houston truck accident lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. take action immediately to investigate whether a truck driver involved in an accident was impaired due to substance abuse, fatigue, intoxication or other factors.
Because these factors are complex, measuring liability for truck accidents in Texas can be challenging in cases involving truckers driving under the influence. Our investigations into substance abuse by truck drivers are just one part of a multi-faceted approach to truck accident lawsuits that also includes medical assessments, reviews of driver histories, examination of perceived safety issues, and any other factors that may have led to a truck driver causing a serious collision.
Additionally, because we understand how distressing it can be for you to cope with the consequences of a collision with a semi truck, we will put our best efforts into obtaining the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and losses. Our goal is to help you obtain the compensation you deserve so that you can focus on recovery and moving forward with your life.
Find out more with a free case evaluation about what our team of dedicated personal injury attorneys can do for you in the wake of your commercial truck accident by calling us at 281-283-8500 . You can also contact us using the form below. We offer a free consultation and you pay no fees unless we recover compensation for you.