Truckers are the backbone of our continental economy. They make sure that goods get from one location to another safely and efficiently, that stores are fully stocked with essential items, and that important shipments arrive on time. Unfortunately, truckers often suffer from long shifts and unhealthy working hours. Truckers face serious, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations. They are required to meet strict delivery schedules while also complying with speed limitations. In order to successfully meet both requirements, they often must work impossibly long hours, sometimes over twelve hours of driving in one day, with minimal stops for personal care or sleep.
The Difficulty Truckers Have Staying Awake
While trucking companies outwardly appear to encourage their employees to take plenty of time for rest, companies’ expectations often drive truckers to push themselves well beyond a healthy balance of working and resting. Truckers generally are not allowed to have any “guests” in the driver’s cabin, meaning no friends or family members are able to sit with the truckers, maintain conversation, and keep them awake. Many truckers are also restricted from using phones, even if hands-free, and may even be limited in the music they play while driving. Under these strict conditions, even a short drive of only a few hours can result in drowsy driving; unsurprisingly, many truckers turn to stimulants to combat these problems.
Stimulant Abuse Often Starts With Coffee
Most truckers who struggle with stimulant abuse first combated their tiredness by drinking coffee or caffeinated sodas. Many drivers on long road trips, both commercial truck drivers and those driving private vehicles, resort to coffee and/or soda to stay awake and alert during long and sometimes lonely hours. For most truckers, the side effects of coffee outweigh the benefits, and they quickly become hooked. What starts as purchasing one cup of coffee at every gas stop slowly turns into purchasing the largest thermos of coffee possible, which then leads to ordering extra espresso shots on the side. Eventually, the truckers’ long hours and adaptation to caffeine means the coffee and espresso no longer keep them awake for long drives. What happens when constantly drinking coffee isn’t enough?
What Lies Beyond Coffee: Stimulants
Problems begin to develop when a trucker’s desire to stay awake exceeds what coffee can provide, and truckers move beyond caffeine and turn to stimulants. Energy drinks and caffeine pills often serve as a bridge from caffeinated drinks to stimulants, as those products are a seemingly safe way to increase your energy when coffee no longer does the trick. However, most products are only intended to sustain a driver’s energy for a short amount of time, and not able to keep a commercial truck driver awake for a long shift. Once hooked on stimulants, many truckers wind up taking them every single day; this is where the real danger lies.
The Danger of Truckers on Stimulants
For most, one large gulp of coffee or shot of 5-hour Energy makes you feel awake and alert. After a second dose, you may begin to feel strung out. The energy these drinks provide is often superficial, and may make you more irritable and a worse driver. For example, you may start to miss important peripheral details as you focus on the road ahead. After a third dose, your focus and attention may waver. Eventually, these products stop providing energy, and instead lead to anxiety, tension, and dependence.
Risks of Stimulant Abuse
Stimulant abuse can lead to addiction, and can create an inability to focus regardless of one’s energy level. Stimulants don’t create energy from nothing; rather, they borrow energy that your body was saving for later. Using stimulants for two days in a row increases the irritability and attention-span problems, and they get worse for each consecutive day of stimulant use. Once a trucker has taken stimulants every day for multiple weeks in an attempt to maintain their strict delivery schedule, they may appear to be upright and driving, but their mind is likely elsewhere.
Truckers who use stimulants regularly are more likely than their counterparts to experience road rage and make poor driving decisions. While you may expect all truckers to be alert and focused on their driving while out on the road, many are experiencing wakeful intoxication, and may pose a risk to you and other drivers. There is nothing more terrifying on the road than seeing a nearby semi-truck swerving and struggling to maintain its lane position. While this may be a result of high crosswinds, if other truckers aren’t experiencing the same problem, then the swerving truck is likely wakefully intoxicated.
Steer Clear of Erratic Truckers
Truckers who are high on stimulants are dangerous, and may pose an even greater risk to other drivers than drunk drivers, due to the size and destructive power of semi-trucks. A fully loaded semi-truck can weigh several tons, and could cause serious destruction if it spun out of control on the highway. No one wants to see a truck veering toward them without a turn signal, or even worse, a semi swerving uncontrollably with a trailer swinging behind it.
If you are on the road and notice a truck driving erratically, you should try to keep your distance. If you are driving behind the truck, make sure to leave ample space between you and the truck, so that you have plenty of time to observe and avoid any potential problems. If you feel the need to pass an erratically driving truck, try to pass at a time when you have an extra lane between you and the truck; otherwise, pass as quickly and safely as possible.
Furthermore, when merging ahead of an erratic truck, make sure to leave plenty of space behind you when shifting back in front of the truck. This extra precaution will provide you with plenty of time to brake if necessary, or to recognize if the truck is zooming up from behind.
Were You Hit by an Erratic Trucker? Call The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond
Have you or a loved one been injured by an erratically driving semi-truck? These types of accidents can be devastating, and it’s not uncommon to be intimidated by the idea of suing a big trucking company for damages. However, if your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligent driving, you may be entitled to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and personal trauma caused by the accident.
If the truck that caused your accident was swerving erratically, the driver may have been many hours into his shift and possibly abusing stimulants. If so, you likely have a strong personal injury claim, and should file as soon as possible. You should contact an attorney while the circumstances of the accident are fresh in your mind, and while evidence is still available.
Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side can help develop a strong and convincing argument, and provide the best opportunity for maximum compensation. Contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond today at (718) 588-2000, or online, for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.