Truck drivers cope with their intense working conditions in many different ways. Trucks are in many ways the lifeblood of America, moving food and supplies around America. The companies they work for are on tight schedules, and as a result, many truck drivers have to work 15-20 hours a week. To deal with these incredibly demanding schedules, many drivers resort to chemical stimulants to stay awake and alert on their routes. These stimulants can be as innocuous as coffee, but truckers also partake in harder drugs such as amphetamines to keep awareness of their surroundings.

The most concerning thing about taking stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine to make it through a long shift is that, while they do make the user more energetic and awake, they can drastically affect perception and reaction to events on the road. This makes truck drivers much more unpredictable, leading to dangerous road conditions and even crashes.

This is to say nothing of the other methods some truckers use to get through a shift, which is much more concerning. Studies have found that many truckers use depressants such as marijuana and alcohol to make it through their long shifts, creating a much more serious hazard on the road. Alcohol and marijuana bring with them the same perception and reaction issues that stimulants do, but also greatly reduce the user’s awareness. They only increase and amplify the fatigue that drivers are going through a long shift experience, and make their driving much more hazardous for themselves and everyone else on the road.

Aside from being an immediate hazard on the road, substance abuse can have far-reaching consequences for drivers. Dependency is an issue with all of the drugs listed above, but it becomes much more likely when the user is taking the drug to cope with another stress in their life. Truckers who take drugs to cope with long shifts run the risk of becoming unable to work long shifts at all without the help of drugs.

While drivers shoulder most of the blame for irresponsible drug use while driving, it can’t be omitted that the reason that many partake at all are the extreme hours that many of them feel compelled to work. If truckers don’t work these extreme hours, they could be at risk of termination or not be able to pay off the lease on their truck. It’s understandable why some drivers feel the need to make the unwise decision to abuse drugs to make it through these shifts.

Truck drivers must be aware of other pathways they can take to avoid abusing drugs while on the job. The Department of Transportation recently mandated that all truck drivers be given a break after 8 hours of work and that a full work day could not exceed 11 hours. Truckers should be aware of these rules and exercise their rights whenever they feel tired. If a trucking company is pressuring its driver to exceed the 11-hour workday, the driver is protected under US law to refuse on the grounds of fatigue.