Truck Drivers And Substance Abuse: Statistics & Treatment

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Long-haul and delivery truck drivers spend hours on the road by themselves and possibly days, weeks, and months away from loved ones. This may contribute to the high rates of addiction among these professionals. However, treatment options are available.

Rate Of Addiction Among Truckers

More than 3.5 million truck drivers work in the American trucking industry driving semi-trailers or delivery trucks, making trucking one of the largest industries in the U.S.

Truck drivers keep the U.S. economy moving – literally. These workers haul more than 70% of domestic freight annually.

The success of the trucking industry relies heavily on the drivers’ ability to pick up, transport, and deliver orders quickly and on time. To do so, truckers often work long hours and maintain irregular schedules.

Demanding responsibilities, coupled with loneliness, may contribute to the high rate of substance abuse among truckers. Substance abuse among this cohort is nearly four times higher than the general population.

Read more about careers with high rates of addiction.

Rates Of Addiction In The Trucking Sector

Limited research is available on addiction in the trucking industry. However, it’s believed that up to one-third of commercial truck drivers abuse alcohol and/or drugs.

The blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit is 0.08% for non-commercial drivers, but this figure is even lower for truckers, at 0.04%.

One study found that about one in five truck drivers (19%) reported binge drinking. Some of these motor carriers also drink during work hours.

If a truck driver were to receive a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, they run the risk of having their commercial driver’s license (CDL) suspended or revoked.

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Truck Drivers And Drug Use

One study on drug use among truck drivers found that 27.6% of truck driver respondents admitted to using drugs, with 21.3% admitting to using methamphetamine.

Truck drivers who participated in this same study also reported cannabis use (5.9%) and cocaine use (2.2%).

Stimulant use is particularly prevalent among truckers, perhaps due to the performance-enhancement qualities of these drugs, which may help these professionals work longer hours.

Truck Drivers And Prescription Drug Use

In this same study, truck drivers also admitted to using prescription drugs. Opioid painkillers (4.3%) and over-the-counter stimulants (4.1%) were among the most commonly used medications.

Type Of Drug Use Rate Of Addiction Trend
Alcohol Use 19% of truck drivers report binge drinking Consistent
Illicit Drug Use May be as high as 27.6% Methamphetamine is the most used illicit drug
Prescription Drug Abuse N/A Opioids and over-the-counter stimulants are most common

Signs Of Addiction In Truck Drivers

If a person is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, there may be telltale physical and/or behavioral signs. These signs may be more or less obvious depending on the extent of their usage.

Common signs of a substance use disorder (SUD) include:

  • bloodshot, glossy eyes
  • pupils that are oversized or pinhole-sized
  • tremors or shakiness
  • sudden mood changes, e.g., aggression, fear, paranoia, giddiness, etc.
  • uncharacteristic low energy or bouts of high energy
  • reduced concern for personal appearance and/or hygiene
  • increased isolation
  • sudden weight loss or gain

There are also signs of substance abuse that may be more noticeable in the workplace specifically.

Common signs of substance abuse among truck drivers include:

  • swerving
  • changing lanes abruptly
  • tailgating
  • changing lanes without using turn signals
  • speeding
  • driving over or under the speed limit
  • running red lights

Factors That May Contribute To Addiction In The Trucking Industry

Truck drivers are vulnerable to a myriad of side effects as a result of their working conditions. Many of these effects can contribute to substance abuse as a way to self-soothe.


Lack of sleep and exhaustion are common among truck drivers. To combat sleepiness, some drivers may use prescribed amphetamines, such as Adderall or Ritalin, or stimulants like methamphetamine.

Just because a substance is legally prescribed to a truck driver doesn’t mean that it’s safe for someone with a CDL to use.


Truck drivers spend long periods alone on the open road. The recommended working hours for truckers, as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Department of Transportation (DOT), is no more than 11 hours.

It’s possible for a trucker to be away from home for days, weeks, and even months at a time. As a result, some truckers may use substances to cope with loneliness and boredom.

Marijuana Legalization

Many states have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use, and the numbers continue to increase. However, even though marijuana may be legal in a state, it is not legal on a federal level.

The trucking industry follows federal regulations regarding marijuana use. However, the increased availability of marijuana nationwide can encourage truckers to use, both on and off the job.

Poor Health

Because of their long work hours, irregular schedules, and heightened isolation, many truck drivers suffer poorer health and age faster than the general population.

A lack of exercise can lead to obesity, as well as muscle soreness, stiffness, and weakness.

Working in a field that’s literally on the go, and requires truckers to travel a certain number of miles per day, means that more truck drivers are also likely to eat fast food as opposed to fresh, nutritious meals.

Risks Associated With Truck Drivers And Substance Abuse

Being under the influence while driving a commercial motor vehicle significantly endangers the health and safety of the truck drivers themselves, as well as the general public on the roadways.

Drinking and/or using drugs impairs the driver’s ability and increases the likelihood of truck accidents and injuries, which can result in hefty personal injury and malpractice lawsuits.

The average tractor-trailer is about 72 feet long and weighs about 80,000 pounds. As a result, it takes a lot longer to stop these large trucks, and impairment makes it even tougher to control them.

Supporting Truck Drivers With Substance Use Issues

Addiction can affect anyone, and unfortunately, truck drivers aren’t exempt. However, help is available to support the needs of truck drivers.

Truckers may consider cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to cope with feelings of loneliness or isolation. Many therapists allow for virtual visits, so truckers can access therapy from their truck.

There is also the option to partake in team truck driving, which is when two drivers work together in the same truck, or to travel with a support dog.

As is, trucking companies have a set of policies they are required to follow if a trucker receives positive test results on drug tests or alcohol tests.

If a trucker were to test positive for drugs or alcohol, they must follow a return-to-duty process. This process entails a series of steps, which includes a substance abuse evaluation program.

Addiction Treatment For Truckers

There are many addiction treatment programs nationwide that understand the unique needs of truckers and transportation industry workers.

Some detox, inpatient, and outpatient centers are purposely located close to major freight hubs, so that truck drivers can receive the support they need.

Employers who provide health insurance to the truck drivers they employ can also provide a list of available in-network addiction treatment options.

Find Freedom From Addiction

Dealing with a substance abuse issue is difficult and, at times, can feel like a never-ending battle, but hope is only a phone call away. If you or a loved one has an addiction, contact to get connected to a treatment center today.

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