Medical Standards for Commercial Truck Drivers are often Dodged with Exemptions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created extensive regulations to govern the profession of commercial long-haul truck driving, and with good reason. Large trucks, such as semi-trucks, tractor-trailers, and 18-wheelers are enormous machines weighing up to 80,000 lbs. and capable of doing a great deal of destruction if drivers lose control. The health of the drivers of these vehicles can have a direct effect on the safety of others on the road, should their health suddenly fail. Nevertheless, medical standards put in place to keep unwell drivers off the road are routinely being set aside in the face of a shortage of available long-haul drivers.
The FMCSA has published a list of medical conditions which exclude an applicant from obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL), should they receive such a diagnosis. The conditions are all ones which, if severe or left untreated, would interfere with the driver’s ability to continue to drive the vehicle or be able to identify hazards on the road. The list includes serious hearing impairment, nerve damage to the feet or hands that would impair the operation of the pedals or grip on the steering wheel, high blood pressure that could cause loss of consciousness, and heart disease, among others. When drivers apply for a CDL, they are required to pass a thorough medical examination by a Department of Transportation-approved physician before receiving their license. However, even if the doctor determines that a candidate has a condition on the barred list, applicants can be granted exemptions from this rule. The pool of available commercial drivers has failed to keep up with the demand for long-haul shipping in the era of online shopping, and as a result, the number of exemptions issued to unwell drivers is substantial.
While not all holders of a CDL with high blood pressure are a danger to the road, the granting of exemptions can have tragic results. For example, a truck driver who had recently undergone surgery after doctors found that one of his arteries was 90% blocked was permitted to return to the road. The driver subsequently lost consciousness behind the wheel of his truck due to the restrictions to his blood flow. The truck crashed into a bus of tourists, killing three on board. Another driver crashed his semi-truck into a strip mall, killing himself, not long after having had surgery on his cataracts. The driver was determined to have been accelerating at the time of the crash, leading authorities to believe that he was not aware of where he was driving and might not have been able to see when the crash occurred.
If you have been injured in an accident with a semi or tractor-trailer in Florida or Alabama, seek help in obtaining the full compensation you’re due to receive for your injuries by contacting the knowledgeable and compassionate truck accident lawyers at Whibbs Stone Barnett for a consultation on your claims at 888-219-4561, with offices conveniently located in Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, and Fairhope.