Despite Medical Exam Requirements, Some Truckers Still Drive With Medical Impairments
When you share the road with semi-trucks, you want to know that those drivers are not only well trained and experienced behind the wheel, but that they are healthy enough to be driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) agrees with you, and that is why drivers must undergo medical exams in order to be issued or to maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
However, despite the regulations, there are drivers on the road every day with dangerous medical conditions that could be putting you and your family at risk. In fact, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, the medical condition of the driver continues to be a contributing factor in truck crashes. How can this happen despite the strict government regulation? We examine the issue here.
What Is the Medical Exam Requirement?
All interstate commercial truck drivers must pass a medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their CDL, and legally operate a commercial motor vehicle. Beginning in 2014, drivers must get the medical examination from a qualified health professional listed in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. By standardizing the exam and requiring medical professionals to become certified in order to give the exam, the DOT hopes to further ensure the safety of all motorists.
Medical Conditions That Can Disqualify a Trucker
A DOT medical exam looks at a variety of health concerns that could affect a driver’s ability to handle a big rig safely. Specifically, the exam assesses a patient’s cardiovascular health, respiratory and muscular functions, vision, and hearing. The examiner may disqualify an applicant from maintaining his or her CDL if any of the following conditions exist:
- Visual acuity of less than 20/40 in each eye with or without corrective lenses
- Loss of a foot, hand, arm, or leg
- Diabetes requiring insulin
- Cardiovascular disease including myocardial infarction, angina pectoris, thrombosis, or coronary insufficiency
- High blood pressure that is likely to interfere with the safe operation of the motor vehicle
- Use of anti-seizure medication or methadone
There are other conditions that could also be considered severe enough to disqualify a driver, but these are the most common. For almost every condition, there is an opportunity for the driver to apply for an exemption from the FMCSA in order to keep driving. To get an exemption, the driver must prove that his condition is under strict control and he must demonstrate his ability to safely operate the vehicle despite the condition. Some conditions, such as high blood pressure or insulin-depended diabetes, require annual follow-up exams in order to be cleared to drive.
How Do These Drivers End Up on the Road Anyway?
Given that the law only requires a medical exam every two years, it’s possible that a trucker could be driving with an undiagnosed heart condition, the early stages of dementia, or uncontrolled high blood pressure and not even know his driving is impaired. There are cases reported every year of drivers who falsify their medical reports on job applications in order to hide a medical disqualification and keep driving. These drivers and their employers have no regard for the safety of other motorists. In fact, there is a backlash among truckers against the medical examination requirements. They argue that the restrictions are too severe and that a medical condition should not be grounds for losing a license. We at the law offices of Steven M. Lee disagree.
Where You Injured in a Truck Crash?
Attorney Steve Lee is an experienced truck accident attorney, and he has seen it all. If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, schedule a consultation in our office. Trucking regulations are complicated and you need someone in your corner who knows what to look for. Was the trucker medically qualified to operate a truck? Was he in compliance with Hours of Service regulations? Was his truck maintained to safe standards? Any one of these factors could have contributed to the crash and to your injuries. Call our office today at 800-232-3711 to see what our experience can do for you.