The American Trucking Associations is calling on U.S. media outlets to “stop their inaccurate and sensationalized reporting” on a review of 36 studies claiming that a number of commercial truck drivers use drugs or alcohol while behind the wheel.
The review was conducted by the Universidade Estadual de Londrina in Brazil. Its findings were based on self-reporting and limited biological testing of drivers from Latin America, Australia and the United States. The results stand in stark contrast to the data collected by U.S. authorities based on biological testing of professional truck drivers in the U.S., according to ATA
“We know from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that in the most recent year available, 2011, the drug use violation rate for [U.S.] professional truck drivers was 0.9%. Similarly, the alcohol violation rate for U.S. truck drivers was .19% in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
ATA says studies show of U.S. drivers in 2011 only 1% of large truck drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher, compared with 24% of car drivers and 29% of motorcyclists.
Last week a review of three dozen studies was released online on the website of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, saying the use of alcohol and illegal drugs among truck drivers in many different countries, while they on the road, is common.
It concluded the use seems to be mainly linked to poor working conditions.
Researchers says 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, Pakistan, U.S., and Brazil, and 23 of which obtained their information through survey data, rather than biological samples.
The pooled data showed that the substances truckers used most frequently while on the road were alcohol, amphetamines, cannabis, and cocaine, according to an Occupational and Environmental Medicine news release. 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. 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.
The prevalence of drinking on the job, ranged from 10% in Pakistan to 91% in Brazil, averaging out at 54%, for studies relying on survey data. But studies relying on biological samples suggested an average prevalence of 3.6%.
In a linked editorial, Professor Allard van der Beek, of the Institute for Health and Care Research at VU University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, said, “The results of this review are a cause for concern, not only for truck drivers using psychoactive substances, but also for the general public.”
“Truckers use these substances to cope with long working hours and fatigue,” he said. He also noted that trying to change the culture will be hard. “Both road transport companies and truck drivers benefit financially from these long working hours.”
“I can think of nothing more disrespectful than being tarred as a drug user or drunk driver based on inaccurate reporting and a specious study,” said ATA Chairman Phil Byrd, president of Bulldog Hiway Express, Charleston, S.C. “The outlets that ran with this story, and did not try to verify its accuracy with U.S. data, owe the millions of safe, dedicated drivers that deliver America’s most essential goods every day a sincere apology.”