Commercial drivers play an essential role in our nation's economy, transporting fresh produce and other goods from one side of the country to the other—often in a surprisingly short amount of time. The job requires exceptional stamina, a commercial driver's license (CDL), and a clean bill of health.
In 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), the agency tasked with regulating interstate commercial vehicles, first began requiring commercial drivers to prove their medical fitness before obtaining a CDL. Two years later, regulators tightened up the health screening system, resulting in the disqualification of approximately 70,000 drivers and CDL applicants.
Despite the progress regulators have made in getting truckers with serious medical conditions off the road, many fear that the flawed health screening system, which relies heavily on self-reporting, may still allow many medically unfit commercial drivers to slip through the cracks.
Truck Accident Statistics
It may surprise many to learn that the federal government and the majority of state governments don’t keep statistics on accidents caused by commercial drivers with medical conditions, which makes it extremely difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem. However, according to research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI), a total of 3,852 people died in large truck crashes in 2015, and it’s possible that some of those accidents were caused by drivers with medical conditions.
The Honor System
One of the biggest problems with the current health screening system for commercial drivers is that it relies almost entirely on self-reporting, or the “honor system.” Truckers are expected to freely disclose sensitive medical information on their FMCSA Medical Examination Report Form or to a Department of Transportation (DOT) medical examiner—information that could potentially destroy their careers and livelihoods While exemptions and waivers for some drivers and conditions may be available, they're certainly not guaranteed. With so much at stake, it's easy to understand why drivers with potentially disqualifying conditions might lie on their health screening form or to their DOT doctor.
Additionally, the lack of authentication attempts or a central database means that drivers who forge or alter their health certificate are unlikely to be caught.
Potentially Disqualifying Conditions
The Medical Examination Report asks commercial drivers about more than 20 different medical conditions, all of which are potentially disqualifying. These conditions include:
- Sleep apnea and other sleep disorders
- Head or brain injuries
- Memory loss
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Lung disease
- Vision or hearing problems
- Kidney issues
- Stomach, liver, or digestive problems
- Missing limb
- Neck or back problems
- Bleeding problems
- Blood clots or bleeding problems
In addition to the questions about disqualifying conditions, the Medical Examination Report also asks commercial drivers if they've had any surgeries and what prescription and over-the-counter products they use regularly.
Were You Injured in a Truck Accident?
Hiding a serious and potentially dangerous medical condition in order to obtain or keep a CDL is illegal, but the threat of a criminal penalty doesn't stop the scores of truck drivers who do just that each year. Every time a medically unfit driver puts his career ahead of public safety, it endangers everyone on the road.
If you were injured in a serious truck accident caused by a medically unfit commercial driver, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit and sue the driver for compensation. In some cases, you may be able to sue the trucking company, as well. Holton Law can help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our law office today to schedule an appointment for an initial consultation to discuss your case.