Should Truck Drivers Take Prescription Medicine?

As a commercial truck driver, your driving ability not only impacts your own life but also the lives of everyone with whom you share the road. Do you take that responsibility seriously? The seriousness increases when you are taking prescribed medication. The medication you take will impact your driving, either positively or negatively.

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor

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Medication can make you drowsy, lethargic, or even non-responsive. Do you know the side effects of your medication? When you visit your doctor, ask these seven key questions:

  1. Why do I need this particular medication?
  2. What dosage must I take for it to be effective?
  3. When should I take this medicine?
  4. Will it be more or less effective at different times of the day?
  5. How should I take my medication? Should I take it with a full glass of water, a full stomach or an empty stomach?
  6. What happens if I forget a dose?
  7. What side effects will influence my driving performance?

Before taking any medication, make sure your doctor knows every prescription and pill you take. It includes all over the counter medicine (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, herbal supplements, vitamins). Different chemicals react in ways you might not have realized, thus negatively affecting your ability to drive safely.

Your Medication and Your Friends

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Never share your medication. Even over the counter medication is not recommended to share. Why? Because you may not know about everything, that person takes. And even if you do know what pills and prescriptions the other person takes, you can’t know what adverse side effects may occur by sharing your aspirin or vitamin E pills. Everyone responds in his or her unique way to medicine. What may make you feel alert may put another person to sleep.

For all commercial vehicle drivers, it is unsafe to take any narcotic type of medication. The side effects can include drowsiness, dizziness, confusion, lack of focus, lack of concentration, and lack of stamina.

How Medication Impacts Your Driving Performance

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Make sure your doctor knows that you drive a commercial motor vehicle for a living. Tell them all the responsibilities that come along with that job, such as personally having to throw chains to secure a load of logs, hooking/unhooking trailers, etc.

Talk to your physician about alternative treatments that might be more compatible with your driving job. Of course, there will be some alternative treatments that will have a more adverse effect than prescription medication, so be well informed.

Lifestyle Changes

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If you are taking a medication for a long-term illness, such as non-insulin dependent diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your doctor what changes you can make to improve your health and thus come off the medication.

Have a Conversation With Your Doctor

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Your doctor is only as effective as the information you provide. If you withhold something you think is embarrassing, you might be preventing your doctor from giving you the best course of treatment.

Did You Fail Your DOT Medical Certification?

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If you did not pass your medical DOT certification exam due to vision, diabetes, or impaired limb function, look into the FMCSA’s programs about these three health areas. For instance, a driver who completes, and passes, the Skill Performance Evaluation program can drive a CMV across state lines if they have been fitted with (and wear) the correct prosthetic device and can demonstrate driving competency. Also, a Federal Diabetes and Vision Exemption Program allows applicants to petition for exemption from disqualification.

Your Own Best Advocate

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You are your best safety advocate. You know the adage that says, "to be forewarned is to be forearmed"? Let that serve you in taking care of your health as a professional truck driver. Be proactive, informed, and prepared, and you will have an intelligent conversation with your doctor to receive the best course of treatment possible.


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Always discuss all medical plans with a qualified health practitioner.