Truck Drivers and Impaired Driving

March 27, 2017 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Truck Drivers and Impaired Driving

Driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is no laughing matter. Every day, 28 people in the United States die in alcohol-related vehicle crashes, equaling about one person every 53 minutes. The death and damages caused by impaired driving cost the US economy about $52 billion per year.

While driving under the influence is dangerous for all drivers regardless of the type of vehicle they're driving, it is especially dangerous for truck drivers. This is mostly because of the sheer size of commercial trucks. The average truck weighs 20-30 times as much as the average passenger vehicle, and 97% of the deaths that that occur from collisions between trucks and cars are passengers of the cars. We like to assume that truck drivers, as professionals adhere to the strict substance usage standards that govern their industry. Sadly, however, that is not always the case. In fact, it turns out that truck drivers drive under the influence of substances quite often.

If an impaired truck driver causes an accident and injuries, that driver should be held liable for all of the losses of injured victims.

Substance Abuse Among Truck Drivers

Trucking is not an easy profession—most truckers live solitary lives consumed by miles and miles of endless driving day in and day out, up to 70 hours a week. In order to combat fatigue, loneliness, and boredom, many truck drivers turn to drugs and alcohol. According to a 2013 study titled “Psychoactive substance use by truck drivers; a systematic review,” drug and alcohol abuse by truck drivers is actually very common, and most of this is linked to poor working conditions. A total of 36 studies between 2000 and 2013 showed that truckers primarily use alcohol, amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana to make it through their shifts. While amphetamines and cocaine are commonly used to keep truck drivers awake and alert, these drugs also compel them to take risks on the road, such as driving too fast, making unsafe lane mergers, and having feelings of overconfidence during inclement weather conditions.

Below, we'll take a look at the most commonly used drugs by truck drivers and then at some of the penalties they could face for doing so.

Alcohol is a depressant that reduces the functions of the brain and impairs thinking, reasoning, and muscle coordination—all skills that are essential for driving. The more a person drinks, the more pronounced these effects become. For example, at 0.02% blood alcohol concentration (BAC), a driver will experience a decline in visual functions and a decline in the ability to perform two tasks at the same time. At 0.08% BAC, the driver will experience difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, poor speed control, reduced information processing capability, and impaired perception. At .10% BAC, the driver will experience a reduced ability to maintain lane position and brake appropriately. At .15% BAC, the driver will experience substantial impairment in vehicle control, difficulty concentrating on driving, and a decline in their ability to process visual and auditory information. These are dangerous conditions for any driver to find himself in—but especially truck drivers.

Amphetamine and methamphetamine are closely related substances that stimulate the central nervous system and produce feelings of excitation and euphoria. Truckers typically use these substances to unnaturally prolong the length of time that they are able to stay awake and alert. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has actually found that low doses of amphetamine and methamphetamine actually result in improved mental processing, reduced levels of fatigue, and improved ability to react rapidly to stimuli. However, higher doses result in a reduced ability to concentrate, slowed reflexes, loss of balance and body control, mental agitation, and reduced ability to follow directions. When truckers take high doses of amphetamine and methamphetamine, it normally causes them to drive at high rates of speed, swerve, maintain unsafe distances from other vehicles, fail to react to changing traffic patterns and fail to stop at stop signs and lights.

Cocaine is a stimulant that gives its users a sense of energy and alertness, elevated mood, and a feeling of power or supremacy. Like amphetamine and methamphetamine, truckers often use cocaine to help them stay awake and alert through long shifts. Driving under the influence of cocaine is dangerous—it often results in speeding, loss of control of the vehicle, inattentive driving, and false feelings of confidence in tricky driving situations. It is particularly dangerous when used with alcohol, as it often suppresses the user's ability to perceive their own level of intoxication, causing them to believe that they are in good shape to drive when, in reality, they are not.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the world. When it is ingested, it gives it users a sense of euphoria, increased situational awareness, increased appetite, and distortions in the perception of time and space. Many truck drivers use it to “come down” from a high produced by other drugs. While marijuana is notably less dangerous than the other substances on this list, it is still not safe to drive under its influence. Marijuana usage significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, all of which are essential skills for truck drivers. In fact, marijuana is the most frequently found drug in the blood of drivers who have been involved in crashes.

Penalties for Truckers Who Drive Under the Influence

There are a number of penalties for truckers who drive under the influence, including:

  • The suspension or revocation of their commercial vehicle license (which also comes with steep reinstatement fees)
  • Points added to their driver's licenses
  • The temporary or permanent loss of their jobs
  • Higher insurance rates
  • Stiff criminal fines and penalties
  • Possible jail time, depending on the severity of the infraction
  • In addition, a truck driver can face a civil claim for personal injury from any accident victims.

Contact a St. Petersburg, FL Truck Accident Attorney

Our truck accident lawyers know how to hold impaired truck drivers accountable for their actions. If you've been injured in a trucking accident, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for a free consultation by calling 727-222-6922.

Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA 1663 1st Ave S. St. Petersburg, FL 33712 (727) 472-3909


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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