Everyone has experienced the soporific effects of long hours behind the wheel. The endless, unchanging scenery and the hum of the engine make your eyelids start to droop, so you turn the radio up or roll down the window to combat the drowsiness. Unfortunately, driving while drowsy is a major cause of car accidents nationwide—especially among those who have to drive long hours for a living.
Truckers Rely on Speed to Stay Awake on Long Drives
In order to curb the worrying trend of truck driver fatigue, the U.S. government instituted federal hours of service regulations that place strict limits on the number of hours a trucker can spend behind the wheel. Hours of service regulations require mandatory rest breaks during shifts, as well as require truckers to get a full night’s sleep between shifts. However, many trucking companies encourage their drivers to break these rules, pressuring them into driving longer hours with fewer breaks. In response, drivers often turn to stimulants—including caffeine pills, amphetamines, and cocaine—to stay in their employer’s good graces.
Many factors contribute to the problem of stimulant use in the trucking industry, such as:
- Easy access. It’s relatively easy for truck drivers to obtain both legal and illegal uppers, according to a study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Truck drivers reported that they could easily get amphetamines from truck stops, and self-reported users were much more likely to use amphetamines while driving during the night.
- Bonus incentives. Trucking companies make money by delivering their goods faster than other suppliers. If their trucks can’t get to a destination fast enough, they could lose millions if the client decides to change carriers. From a profit perspective, trucking companies would rather offer drivers small incentives to break the rules (and spend more hours behind the wheel) than lose out on their contracts.
- Job security. Truckers can be fired at will, especially if they are working illegally, their licenses have expired, or they miss a scheduled deadline. Trucking companies are always looking for ways to make more profit, and letting older, slower drivers go in favor of younger drivers is a win-win situation for them. Drivers may take stimulants to keep up with younger, fitter drivers, thinking they have no choice.
- Reinforcing outmoded deadlines. The use of stimulants has created a vicious cycle when it comes to driving under the influence of drugs. A trucking company expects a driver to get from A to B within a certain timeframe. The driver cannot make the timeframe if he takes his required rest breaks, so he skips his rest breaks and becomes fatigued. Rather than stop, he relies on stimulants to make the delivery on time. When he continues to adhere to the unrealistic travel deadlines, the company assumes that all drivers should be able to make the deadlines in a similar timeframe, requiring more drivers to sacrifice breaks in order to keep up with the precedent.
How to Determine if the Trucker Was Using Drugs Before the Crash
Stimulants may keep a driver awake, but they also affect cognition, memory, concentration, and other processes that make it possible to drive safely. They also affect the body as well as the brain, and can make hands shake, cause overcorrection and jerky movements, and can even cause the trucker to suffer a heart attack behind the wheel. Any one of these side effects can place a trucker at risk of causing a crash that can injure himself and the other vehicle occupants around him—and with the increased size and weight of the truck, the injuries suffered are likely to be fatal.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a truck accident in Tennessee, our injury attorneys can investigate the facts of your case and determine whether drug use was a factor in your claim. Fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with our legal team.