Current System Fails to Weed out Medically Unfit Truck Drivers

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s current rules fail to ensure that medically unfit truck drivers are kept off the roads.  As a result, thousands of truck drivers continue to drive with dangerous health conditions that range from diabetes and obesity to cardiac disease, with nothing to prevent them from doing so.  That dismal situation is the subject of an investigation by news21, a college journalism coalition.

In 2002, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended stronger medical health standards for truck drivers, and strict procedures in place to prevent medically unfit drivers from operating tractor-trailers.  The recommendation came in response to a bus accident in 1999 in Louisiana that killed 22 passengers, and was ultimately linked to a seriously ill driver who became incapacitated at the wheel.  Since the time those recommendations were made until 2008, there are estimated to have been 826 fatal commercial truck accidents involving medically unfit drivers.  These accidents include those that involve drivers with sleep apnea, because this is considered a medical condition that induces sleeplessness, drowsiness and therefore, fatigue.

The current system is rife with too many problems for Los Angeles truck accident lawyers to believe that there will be a solution soon.  For instance, there are a total of 400,000 medical practitioners across the country who are deemed eligible to issue medical certificates for more than 6 million commercial truck drivers.  The law isn't even very specific about the kind of medical practitioner who can conduct a medical exam.  A truck driver could be certified by a nurse assistant or a chiropractor.  That's just the situation with truckers who want to go the legal route in order to obtain a medical certificate.  Truckers who don't want to do so can simply go to the FMCSA website and download a Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver Fitness Determination certificate.  The website also includes the Medical Examiner Certificate.  Drivers and doctors can then use these templates to forge their own fake medical certificates.  There is no system in place to check who issued a medical certificate, and there is no registry to track medical examination results.

The feds need to wake up to the complex problems involving commercial vehicle driver health.  Too many lives are lost every year in accidents caused by truck drivers too sick to be at the wheel.


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