Studies Reveal Drugged and Distracted Driving Among Truckers

Distracted Driving Truck Wrecks

Studies Reveal Drugged and Distracted Driving Among Truckers

According to a pair of new studies, distracted driving and drugged driving among truckers remain two of the most serious threats to travelers in the United States.  

The first of these reportswhich was commissioned by The Alliance for Driver Safety and Security and presented to the U.S. House of Congress in June, found that standard urinalysis testing for truck drivers failed to identify nine out of 10 illicit drug users.  

The second study, conducted by Nauto (an in-vehicle artificial intelligence startup company based in California), found that distracted driving caused more than 70% of accidents among commercial drivers who were using the company’s technology at the time of their crash.  

Keep reading to learn more about these studies and find out how drugged and distracted driving contributes to deadly truck wrecks nationwide. 

Review Shows That Urinalysis Isn’t Enough to Detect Drug Use in Truck Drivers 

Commercial drivers operating trucks under the influence of drugs and alcohol isn’t a new phenomenon, but the study mentioned above is alarming. In a statement accompanying the study, The Alliance for Driver Safety & Security (frequently shortened to “The Trucking Alliance”) said they found “compelling evidence that thousands of habitual drug users are skirting a system designed to prohibit drug use in transportation.” 

All truck drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing under federal law. However, the Department of Transportation only recognizes urinalysis testing as an official method. Thankfully, employers are allowed to perform additional drug testing as part of their hiring processes, and many are now requiring hair analysis in addition to urinalysis.  

The Trucking Alliance reviewed the results of more than 150,000 truck drivers who submitted both hair and urinalysis samples as part of their pre-employment drug screenings. While 94% of applicants tested negative for illicit drugs, thousands of drivers (almost all of whom held active commercial licenses) failed one or both of the tests. 

More alarming is the fact that urine testing detected drugs in less than 1,000 applicants. Meanwhile, nearly 9,000 drivers either failed the hair test or refused to submit a hair sample. According to The Alliance, the most common drugs found in the applicants’ systems were cocaine, opioids, and marijuana.  

Testifying before Congress, The Trucking Alliance said that based on their results, they would expect more than 300,000 drivers nationwide to either fail or refuse a hair analysis. The Trucking Alliance asked that the Department of Transportation mandate hair analysis drug testing as part of commercial trucking companies hiring practices to ensure better, more accurate screenings and safer roads.   

Truck Drivers and Distracted Driving 

Another common and dangerous practice among commercial truck drivers is distracted driving. Far too many truck drivers operate their trucks while using a cell phone, playing with the radio, eating, or otherwise engaging in activities that take their focus off the road. 

Nearly every state has enacted some form of distracted driving legislation (only Connecticut and New Hampshire still lack a distraction category on their police crash report forms). But despite those efforts, distracted driving is on the rise in the United States, both in the general population and among truck driversAnd size, weight, and destructive power of commercial trucks make the problem of distracted driving even more dangerous within the trucking industry. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nine people lose their lives due to distracted driving every day on American roads. However, the company Nauto believes this estimate is much too low. 

“When people are in a collision, even if distracted driving was one of the mitigating factors, they don’t normally volunteer and report it to the police,” notes Nauto CEO Jennifer Haroon. 

To prove that existing statistics underestimate the problem of distracted driving, Nauto conducted their own study using their own in-vehicle anti-collision technology with a fleet of commercial truck drivers. In addition to discovering that more than 70% of collisions involved distracted driving, Nauto found that the most common form of distracted driving in truck cabs involved cell phone usage. The company also observed other distracting behaviors that included doing paperwork, eating, drinking, and talking to others. 

Many trucking companies have begun instituting anti-distraction training programs for new and experienced drivers, but there’s a lot of work left to do if the industry wants to address the distracted driving crisis. Part of that work might involve implementing the sort of innovative technology that Nauto has pioneered, such as in-cabin alerts and video insights. These innovations can work with traditional telematics technology that helps identify hard braking, acceleration, and collisions. 

RELATED: Can Technology Help Curb Distracted Truck Driving? 

Injured by a Reckless Truck Driver? Contact Seattle Truck Law 

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving a large truck or bus, please contact Morgan Adams and the Seattle Truck Law team today. We’ll listen to your story and advise you about your legal options during a free consultation. When you choose us to represent you, we’ll investigate all the causes of the crash that injured you and pursue every available option to get you the compensation you deserve. 

To schedule your free initial consultation today, please call (866) 580-HURT or complete our quick and easy online contact form. The sooner you reach out, the sooner we can move to preserve evidence and make sure your rights are protected, so call us right away if you need help. 



Trucking Alliance: Driver drug use a top trucking safety issue. (2019, June 12). Heavy Duty Trucking. Retrieved from 

Rajamanickam, V. Understanding distracted driving is the key to improving driver safety. (2019, June 20). Freight Waves. Retrieved from 

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.