Fighting RoadWay Fatigue The Dangerous Way

Accidents involving trucks are a major problem on the roadways across America. The statistics portray a grim picture. In 2016, 3,986 people died in large truck crashes and the numbers have been increasing since. Due to the enormous weight of the truck, most of the victims in these crashes were either passengers or drivers in smaller vehicles, or pedestrians and cyclists. Only seventeen percent of these deaths were persons sitting inside the truck. With truckers peppering the highways at all hours of the day and night, under pressure to meet their travel deadlines, they pose a serious safety hazard to public health. 

The problem is especially pronounced for long-haul drivers whose routes require extensive driving over long periods of time, often with little rest. It is on these trips that span longer than 51 miles that 65% of trucking accidents occur according to statistics. Moreover, frighteningly one in every four truck drivers has reported falling asleep while at the wheel in the past month.

One method that truck drivers are using to try to stay awake while still getting in their mileage is the use of stimulants. Yet, this is not a safe solution according to In fact, drivers who make use of stimulants in the attempt to stay awake are actually “further exacerbating the risk of accidents and fatalities” and placing everyone on the road at an increased risk of becoming a victim in an accident.

According to results of random drug sampling, approximately 0.6% of truck drivers are abusing stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, or methamphetamine while operating a huge vehicle weighing numerous tons and sometimes also carrying hazardous materials. While drivers are using these drugs to stay awake, the reality is that these long haul drivers using stimulants tend to have higher rates of driving infractions than those not using stimulants. The reason for this is because the chemical effect of the drug can alter the drivers’ cognitive and motor functions, attention span, focus, coordination, decision making, and impulse control. Furthermore, as the drug levels in the body begin to diminish, users can become paranoid, aggressive, extremely drowsy, or delusions – all dangerous characteristics to possess while controlling a massive vehicle.

While there are strict FMCSA regulations detailing how many hours a truck driver is legally permitted to drive, driver shortages, economic pressure and the long hours staring at hypnotic open roadways contribute to the increased use of stimulants in this population. As such, the FMCSA requires that truck drivers be tested for drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, with approximately 2% of truck drivers failing these tests annually, everyone on the road should be concerned.