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Truck Drivers and Alcohol and Drug Use

Texas law, as well as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), prohibit truck drivers from using alcohol or drugs while driving. Nevertheless, truckers’ drug use contributes to a large number of crashes every year. As reported in a Large Truck Crash Causation Study published by FMCSA, prescription drug use and over-the-counter drug use are two of the top ten factors associated with large truck accidents caused by drivers.

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What Types of Drugs Do Truck Drivers Use?

Truck drivers may use any number of illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs behind the wheel, but most of them are stimulants of a sort to keep them awake.


A total of 33 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws broadly legalizing marijuana (including legalization for medical uses). As a result, marijuana use among truck drivers is on the rise, as reported in an article on Transportation Topics. Based on an analysis of ten million drug tests administered by Quest Diagnostics in 2018, it was concluded that every segment of the workforce, including truck drivers, is increasingly flunking drug tests for marijuana.

As stated by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana use significantly impairs driving. It adversely affects judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. It is the “illicit” drug most frequently found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes, including fatal accidents.


Commonly known as “speed,” amphetamines are frequently detected in truck drivers who fail drug tests. In a study of truck drivers around the world, researchers found that approximately 30% of drivers asked, on average, admitted to using amphetamines, as reported on Reuters.

Truck drivers have long hauls behind the wheel of a big rig. Amphetamines can help them stay awake, but they can also cause agitation, vertigo, and hallucinations that affect perception and reactions. Approximately 8% of truck drivers involved in the study tested positive for amphetamines.


Cocaine is a drug of choice among truck drivers. Like amphetamines, it helps drivers stay away and relieves the tedium of life on the road. Also like amphetamines, it can affect driver perception and reactions and cause vertigo, hallucinations, and agitation. In the study reported on Reuters, 3% of drivers involved admitted to using cocaine.


Many truck drivers use stimulants, such as ephedrine and caffeine, to help them stay awake. According to a study published in Forensic Science International, although stimulants may improve some cognitive functions, they impair driving ability and are linked to crashes. Researchers in this study found that truck drivers who tested positive for stimulants had a greater proportion of driving infractions and narcotic drug use, and 78% greater odds of committing unsafe driving actions.

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Trucking Alliance Tells Congress: Thousands of Truck Drivers Are Manipulating Drug Tests

In June 2019, a trucking industry group known as the Trucking Alliance told Congress that thousands of commercial truck drivers are illicit drug users, and presented evidence to support its claim. This group also issued a statement to accompany its testimony to Congress.

The Trucking Alliance refers to data from pre-employment drug test results of 151,662 truck driver job applicants, who were asked to submit to urinalysis and hair analysis. Nearly all applicants held active commercial driver’s licenses.

Although urinalysis is used by most trucking companies and is the only drug-testing method recognized by USDOT, this type of testing failed to identify most users. While urinalysis only detected drugs in 949 truck driver applicants, a total of 8,878 either failed or refused the hair analysis. Simply stated, urinalysis may have missed nine out of ten illicit drug users. The most prevalent drug among those who failed the testing was cocaine, followed by opioids and marijuana.

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What to Do When a Truck Driver Under the Influence Causes a Crash

As reported by the Texas Department of Transportation (DOT), 611 people were killed in 536 fatal crashes involving commercial vehicles statewide in a recent year, and we would bet a majority of them took place in the Permian Basin. Because of the sheer size and weight of big rigs, when impaired truck drivers cause collisions, passenger vehicle occupants are more likely to suffer serious injuries or death.

Large truck accidents are complex cases involving federal regulations and multiple potentially responsible parties. If you have been hurt or lost a loved one in a trucking crash, your best course of action is to speak with an experienced Texas trucking accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 212-2822. We have years of experience successfully representing truck accident victims across Texas and New Mexico.

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Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP is a legal practice that provides personal, client-centered legal services that address the specific needs of accident victims and injured parties.

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