Use of booze and drugs common among truck drivers on the road

October 21, 2013, British Medical Journal

The use of booze and drugs among truck drivers on the road is common, but seems to be mainly linked to poor working conditions, finds a systematic analysis of the available evidence published online in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

An accompanying editorial describes the as "a cause for concern," not only in terms of the impact on drivers' health, but also because of the risk posed to road safety.

The researchers carried out a comprehensive review of published evidence on the use of mind altering substances among truck drivers by combing through international research databases.

They found 36 relevant studies, dating back to 2000, 28 of which had been carried out in countries with a large land mass, such as Australia, the US, and Brazil, and 23 of which obtained their information through rather than biological samples.

The pooled data showed that the substances truckers used most frequently while on the road were alcohol, amphetamines ('speed'), cannabis, and cocaine. But the extent to which these were used varied widely, depending on the substance itself and the way in which the data had been collected.

So drinking on the job ranged from 0.1% to 91%, while the use of amphetamines ranged from 0.2% to 82.5%, cannabis from 0.2% to 30%, and cocaine from 0.1% to over 8%.

Prevalence was lower in studies relying on biological samples. But as the authors point out, these analyses only detect a substance that has been used hours or a few days beforehand, so tend to underestimate the true extent of use.

The prevalence of drinking on the job, for example, ranged from 10% (Pakistan) to 91% (Brazil), averaging out at 54%, for studies relying on survey data. But studies relying on suggested an average prevalence of 3.6%.

Twelve studies looked at the factors associated with the use of drugs on the job. The pooled data revealed certain common themes, among which were younger age; higher income; longer trips; night driving; alcohol consumption; fewer hours of rest; and pay below union recommended rates or that was linked to productivity.

"Psychoactive [mind altering] substances have been proved to impair driving and cause a greater risk of traffic accidents," write the authors. "Therefore gas stations, trucker stops and companies that employ these professionals must be more closely observed regarding the sale and consumption of these substances."

In a linked editorial, Professor Allard van der Beek, of the Institute for Health and Care Research at VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, points out: "The results of this review are a cause for concern, not only for truck drivers using psychoactive substances, but also for the general public."

"It is beyond doubt" that alcohol and cannabis dull reaction times, he says, while can stave off fatigue and boost concentration, but over the long term, continued use of high doses can be harmful to health.

Furthermore, other research shows that the use of stimulants prompts drivers to take more risks on the road and they are linked to an increased risk of falling asleep at the wheel and a subsequent road traffic collision, he says. Given the size and weight of trucks, this obviously increases the risks of serious injury and death.

Truckers use these substances to cope with long working hours and fatigue, he explains. But trying to change the culture will be hard. "Both road transport companies and benefit financially from these long working hours," he writes.

Explore further: Cannabis use doubles chances of vehicle crash

More information: Paper: Psychoactive substance use by truck drivers: a systematic review, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2013-101452

Editorial: Psychoactive substance use in truck drivers: occupational and public health, Online First, DOI: 10.1136/oemed-2013-101791

Related Stories

Cannabis use doubles chances of vehicle crash

February 9, 2012
Drivers who consume cannabis within three hours of driving are nearly twice as likely to cause a vehicle collision as those who are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol claims a paper published today in the British ...

Older workers who drive top traffic death list, CDC reports

August 22, 2013
(HealthDay)—Older workers who drive as part of their job have significantly higher traffic death rates than younger workers, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

Drivers who test positive for drugs have triple the risk of a fatal car crash

September 25, 2013
Drugged driving has been a safety issue of increasing public concern in the United States and many other countries but its role in motor vehicle crashes had not been adequately examined. In a new study conducted at Columbia ...

Alcohol causes a quarter of Europe road deaths

December 15, 2012
Alcohol abuse is responsible for around a quarter of the 30,000 people who die in road accidents across the European Union every year, the bloc's drugs agency said in a report published on Friday.

Young cannabis-smokers aware of the health risks

July 29, 2013
Young Swiss men who drink alcohol and smoke tobacco or cannabis read up on addictive substances more frequently than their abstinent peers. They report their knowledge of the health risks as very good whereas abstainers rate ...

Synthetic drug use rapidly rising in Europe, report finds

May 28, 2013
New synthetic psychoactive substances are making their way into Europe where the Internet is becoming a big challenge in the fight against illicit drugs, the continent's drug agency warned Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.