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How common is substance abuse among truckers?

Today's commercial truck drivers face long hours, often logging as many as 70 hours over an eight-day stretch. The difficult, solitary nature of the profession is leading some to turn to alcohol or drugs. Sometimes, semitruck drivers abuse substances simply because they are bored and tired of spending so much time alone, while in other instances, they do so in an attempt to stay awake longer and get more miles under their belts.

Regardless of their reasoning for using alcohol or drugs, the American Addiction Centers report that abuse of both can have catastrophic effects. Given how pronounced the dangers of drinking and driving, or using drugs and driving, are for the average motorist, you can imagine that they typically magnify when the people abusing drugs and alcohol are also sitting at the controls of massive semitrucks. So, just how pervasive is the substance-abusing trucker problem?

By the numbers

While rules exist that dictate how often truckers must take breaks, some truck drivers work around them by taking on extra shifts. In some cases, they do so even though expanding their workloads may prove hazardous to their health and make them more prone to driving while drowsy or fatigued. In some cases, truckers who face especially tough schedules turn to amphetamines, including methamphetamine, because such substances may initially increase alertness, allowing them to complete certain jobs more quickly.

Amphetamine abuse in the trucking industry is so commonplace, in fact, that about 82 percent of semitruck drivers who took part in three dozen separate studies admitted they had used amphetamines during their shifts. While this percentage is troubling, so, too is the number of truck drivers who acknowledged they had used alcohol during a shift. Up to 91 percent of truck drivers said they had consumed alcohol on the job at some point, while another roughly 8 percent said they had abused cocaine while driving.

Drug and alcohol abuse has a serious impact on truck driver performance, as it can affect everything from alertness to judgment. Until more is done to combat the widespread problem of truck driver substance abuse, semitruck drivers who use drugs or alcohol on the job will continue to endanger every driver and passenger on the roadway.

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