Increase in Opioid Use Among Truckers Increasing Accident Risks in Wilmington
In 2013, Reuters published an article warning of the dangers of drug use among commercial truck drivers. According to Reuters, a significant portion of commercial motor vehicle drivers in the United States, and worldwide, were being driven truckers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs. Around 20 percent of truckers admitted to using marijuana, for example, while 12.5 percent tested positive for alcohol and three percent admitted to cocaine use.
The specific total number of truckers using various types of drugs is difficult to measure, because most truckers won't admit they are using drugs and because their drug use is not always identified unless they get into an accident or attract attention from law enforcement. Many truckers will use drugs in order to be able to drive longer, or to cope with the stresses or boredom of their jobs.
Unfortunately, it seems likely that things have grown much worse, rather than much better, since 2013. The problem is, since that initial report on commercial truck drivers' drug use, the opioid epidemic in the United States has reached crisis levels. Opioid use is becoming far more common, and opioid overdoses are reaching new records. If a truck driver is on opioids, their truck accident risk is increased significantly and everyone who is on the road with them is in grave danger.
Opioid abuse has dramatically increased, with predictably tragic consequences. According to Health and Human Services, there have been a total of 165,000 deaths due to prescription opioids since 1999. Many of those deaths occurred within the last four years, as HHS indicates that the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids has nearly quadrupled since 1999.
The most recent year for which data is available is 2014, and that year, more people died from drug overdoses than at any other time on record. Opioids was almost singe-handedly responsible for this record death rate. Around six in 10 of the fatalities that happened due to overdoses in 2014 involved some type of opioid, including heroin or prescription pain relievers.
Truckers could be prescribed opioids for many reasons, such as due to the pain that can come from sitting in a vehicle for too long or due to injuries that occur when loading or unloading trucks. While many will use the drug legally and for a limited time only to cope with the legitimate health issue, others will become addicted and endanger motorists.
Because of growing concerns about the impact of drug use among commercial truckers, which is being exacerbated by high-profile and tragic collisions involving impaired drivers, some trucking companies are asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to allow hair drug testing instead of current urine testing that is used. According to Trucks.com, those advocating for the switch to hair testing claim it will be more reliable, but that is up for debate.
Trucking companies must do something, as both drugged drivers and the companies that the drugged drivers work for could sometimes be held accountable if a crash happens while a truck driver is on drugs.