While those on the outside of the profession may think truck driving is an easy way to make money, those who actually do it know the truth. It is a grueling and intense job, with long hours, heavy lifting, and more isolation than people should have. It is a necessary and essential job, but as industry is ultimately fueled by a desire for more money, trucking is not as safe as it should be.
For example, truckers are legally required to stick to a rigorous break schedule allowing them enough time to rest during long drives, but companies are known to encourage the neglect of these regulations for the sake of faster delivery times. Many sought special exemptions over the past two years as well. This means truckers are likelier to be exhausted, and likelier to use any method they can to keep awake. Sometimes, those methods include illegal substances.
Do strict trucking schedules encourage substance abuse?
Fatigued truck drivers are not able to pay attention as well as they need to. They can be more irritable, distractible, and all-around less responsible than is required to safely control a giant metal vehicle, or, if they are tired enough, they can fall asleep behind the wheel entirely and crash.
To avoid this fate, many truck drivers who know they must drive too long are turning to illegal drugs to force themselves to stay awake. One study uncovered that truckers use cocaine more than any other drug. Because trucking companies are not required to do hair tests, the number of truckers guilty of this seems to be largely underreported.
Cocaine is known as an “upper,” and can make people feel very, very awake for a very, very long time. Those who may be forced to drive for upwards of 16 hours in a single stretch may be drawn to the drug as an easy way to stay awake. And, because it is harder to detect, more truckers may be using it because they know they can get away with it.
Most of the time.
Last year, right here in Mississippi, a truck driver was arrested after over 13 kilograms of cocaine was found in their possession — and yes, they were on the clock and in their truck. The implications of this are incredibly worrying. That amount of cocaine was probably not intended for one person alone, and truck drivers often know each other. Just how many of them are on the roads we take our children and loved ones on, roads we have no choice but to use?
Why illegal drug use by truckers use poses a unique risk
Trucks are inherently more dangerous to drive and be around than passenger vehicles simply because of their size, center of gravity, and their likelihood of carrying hazardous materials. As such, drivers with a CDL are required by law to pass specific tests, and to undergo specific types of training. All that safety training goes out the window if the driver is taking illegal drugs. Cocaine in particular causes “increased irritability, restlessness, panic attacks, paranoia, and even a full-blown psychosis, in which the individual loses touch with reality and experiences auditory hallucinations. With increasing doses or higher frequency of use, the risk of adverse psychological or physiological effects increases,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). These traits and behaviors are dangerous enough when the user is not behind the wheel of a multi-ton moving vehicle.
Long-term cocaine use can also do extensive damage to the people using it. Per NDIA, long-term use is linked to movement disorder like Parkinson’s, overall reduced cognitive function, impaired motor skills, bleeding in the brain (intracerebral hemorrhage), and “balloon-like bulges in the walls of cerebral blood vessels.” In short, a driver who uses cocaine regularly may eventually lose their ability to drive completely. There is also a risk of the driver dying from the drug while behind the wheel, which in turn poses another risk to those who share the roads.
Holding truck drivers under the influence accountable in Mississippi
Driving any vehicle under the influence of any controlled substance, whether it be alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine, is illegal. Even some pain medication comes with a warning not to operate machinery with it!
Any controlled substance is a compromising one, usually by impairing the driver’s ability to:
- React in a timely manner
- Steer properly
- Maintain and control the correct speed
- Concentrate wholly on the road
- Brake when needed
- Remain in their lane/merging effectively
- Signal intention to other drivers, including warning them with their horn
Becoming addicted to an illegal substance may not be the truck driver’s fault, but they are still responsible for those they hurt under the influence. If they cause an accident due to drug use that results in the serious injury or death of someone else, they can be held accountable no matter how complicated the case may be. Truck accident liability is more complicated than passenger vehicle accidents, but typically at least one or more of the following three entities can be held accountable:
- The truck driver himself
- The owner of the truck if it differs from the driver
- The company or contractor that employed the driver
The best thing you can do for yourself is get started on your truck accident claim as quickly as possible. At Merkel & Cocke, our Mississippi truck accident attorneys have years of experience finding who is liable for your injuries and making those charges stick to get you the compensation and justice you deserve. To learn more and get started today, call us at 662-627-9641 or use our contact form. We maintain offices in Jackson, Oxford, Clarksdale, and Greenville, and proudly serve Tupelo and the entire Gulf Coast.
After graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1975, Mr. Cocke and Mr. Merkel established Merkel & Cocke, P.A. in 1982. Since that time the emphasis of Mr. Cocke’s practice has progressed toward medical malpractice. At the present time his practice is exclusively devoted to handling medical negligence cases for the plaintiff, either as a result of direct contact by the client or on referral from other attorneys who are not familiar with the handling of medical negligence cases. Mr. Cocke was selected Best Lawyer of the year for 2012 and 2014 in The Memphis area in the field of Medical Malpractice and has been selected a Best Lawyer and Super Lawyer every year since 2006. Learn more about John Hartwell Cocke here.