Truckers Failing to Disclose Medical Conditions Can Pose Safety Risk

Commercial long-haul truck drivers are entrusted with a potentially-lethal weapon when they get behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer 18 wheeler. Due to the violence that can be caused by an out-of-control truck, these drivers are subject to a wide range of regulations on the lengths of their shifts and breaks, the training they are required to undergo, and even to a medical examination to ensure that they are sufficiently healthy to remain conscious and physically capable of driving a heavy truck. However, these medical examinations are of limited use when a large section of the examination relies on self-reporting, and while exemptions from these medical requirements are liberally given, as is currently the case.

The medical examination requirements imposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) which individuals must meet prior to receiving a commercial driver’s license (CDL) have become more stringent in recent years, after a 2008 study revealed that a number of drivers with CDLs had also qualified to receive Social Security Disability. While this brought about a new requirement that only Department of Transportation-authorized doctors would be permitted to conduct these medical examinations, and not only the FMCSA but also state-level licensing authorities would need to receive confirmation of the driver’s medical clearance before a CDL would be issued, flaws in the system remain. Most significantly, drivers applying for a CDL are expected to disclose all diseases they have in a thorough medical history. However, drivers would have little motivation to disclose conditions such as sleep apnea that could conceivably disqualify them from receiving a CDL, but which would be unlikely to be revealed on a physical. While sleep apnea may not sound at first blush like the sort of condition that would make a driver a safety hazard, this condition can cause drowsiness in someone who has been unsuccessful in treating it, and has resulted in at least one serious crash, when a Greyhound bus driver with untreated sleep apnea rolled a bus over an embankment when he nodded off behind the wheel.

Another flaw in the medical clearance system is the broad ability professionals have to grant exemptions from these rules. The FMCSA granted somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,400 medical exemptions between 2013 and 2014. The liberality with exemptions is often attributed to the shortage of available long-haul truck drivers on the labor market. One driver who passed out behind the wheel, hitting a bus, had been permitted to continue driving commercially after he had received a stent in an artery that was 90% blocked. His loss of consciousness was attributed to his restricted blood flow.

For assistance in making a successful claim for money damages after you or someone you love is injured in a truck accident in South Carolina, contact the dedicated and knowledgeable Spartanburg personal injury attorneys at Anderson, Moore, Bailey & Nowell, LLC for a free consultation on your case, at 864-641-6431.