Commercial truck drivers spend a significant amount of time on the road, transporting goods to and from points all across the country.
In the interest of public safety, it's essential that these drivers be well-trained and free of any health conditions that could cause them to get into an accident.
In the United States, the commercial trucking industry is regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is tasked with finding ways to reduce accidents, injuries, and fatalities involving large commercial trucks and buses. The FMCSA was plagued with reports of catastrophic accidents caused by medically-unfit truck drivers for years before implementing health fitness regulations in 2012 in an attempt to stem the tide.
For the first time, commercial drivers were required to prove their medical fitness before obtaining a commercial driver's license (CDL), which led to the disqualification of numerous applicants. The FMCSA further tightened the health screening system for truckers, resulting in a record 70,000 drivers and CDL applicants deemed medically unfit.
The FMCSA's medical fitness requirements has been successful in getting tens of thousands of commercial drivers with dangerous medical ailments off the road, but there's still more work to be done. Loopholes in the screening process make it far too easy for drivers to conceal potentially disqualifying conditions.
Fatalities Caused by Medically Unfit Commercial Drivers
Accidents caused by medically unfit truck drivers are a serious public health concern, so it stands to reason that state and federal regulatory agencies would have exhaustive data on just how many people are killed in these types of crashes. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. The federal and state governments don't keep statistics on truck accidents that occur as a result of commercial drivers' health conditions, making it next to impossible to determine the scope of the problem.
General statistics on crashes involving large trucks and buses show that nearly 4,000 people are killed in truck accidents each year. While we can't know for sure just how many of those deaths were caused by medically unfit commercial drivers, it's reasonable to assume that at least some of them were.
The Problem With Self-Reporting
The biggest loophole in the FMCSA's health screening system is that it requires commercial drivers to either self-report disqualifying medical conditions or be honest with Department of Transportation (DOT) medical examiners. With their jobs and livelihoods on the line, it's not difficult to understand why some truckers might be reluctant or unwilling to disclose such personal and potentially damaging information.
The FMCSA does offer some exemptions and waivers for certain conditions. However, not only can these exceptions be difficult to obtain, seeking them first requires drivers to admit to having a dangerous medical condition, which may not be in their best interest.
Potentially Disqualifying Medical Conditions
The FMCSA's Medical Examination Report lists more than 20 medical conditions that could potentially disqualify commercial drivers from receiving a CDL or continuing a career in the trucking industry. Many of the conditions listed could directly affect driving performance. Potentially disqualifying medical conditions include:
- Sleep apnea
- Other sleep disorder
- Head or brain injuries
- Chronic headaches
- Memory loss
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Vision problems
- Hearing loss
- Kidney problems
- Digestive issues
- Liver problems
The Medical Examination Report also requires drivers to disclose what prescription and over-the-counter medications they use on a regular basis.
Do You Need a Truck Accident Attorney?
If you were injured in a truck accident caused by a commercial driver who concealed a disqualifying medical condition, McGartland Law can help you file a lawsuit against the driver—and maybe even the company that employees him. Contact McGartland Law today to schedule a free initial case consultation.