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Federal Rules target medically unfit truck drivers


By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press Writer  – Tue Dec 2, 12:01 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Federal regulators are taking steps to get medically unfit truck and bus drivers off the road after being accused for years of dragging their feet on the issue.

Under a rule approved by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, states will be required to merge commercial truck and bus drivers’ licenses with drivers’ medical examination certificates into a single electronic record.

Linking the two will make it easier to check whether drivers have met medical requirements to operate commercial vehicles. States will have three years to comply.

The administration has also proposed creating a registry of medical examiners qualified to award certificates to drivers. Examiners who fail to meet minimum standards could be barred from issuing fitness-to-drive certificates.

“These actions will support and strengthen our continuing commitment to ensure that only medically qualified individuals are allowed to operate an interstate truck or bus. Safety is our paramount responsibility,” John Hill, head of the motor carrier safety administration, said in a statement.

Agency officials were severely chastised at a House hearing earlier this year for going years without addressing the problem of medically unfit drivers despite repeated warnings from Congress.

The rule finalized on Monday addresses some of a series of recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2001 in response to a motorcoach accident two years earlier in New Orleans that killed 22.

In the New Orleans accident, NTSB said the bus driver, 46-year-old Frank Bedell, suffered life-threatening kidney and heart conditions but still held a valid commercial license and certificate saying he was fit to drive. A passenger recounted seeing the driver slumped in his seat moments before the crash.

Tractor-trailer and bus drivers have suffered seizures, heart attacks or unconscious spells while behind the wheel. Such illnesses have been a critical factor in thousands of serious truck accidents.

Many commercial vehicle drivers whose serious medical conditions are known to their employers, health care providers and others are never reported to motor vehicle licensing authorities, NTSB says.

A Government Accountability Office study earlier this year found hundreds of thousands of drivers operating trucks and buses even though they had qualified for federal medical disability payments.

A separate study by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee found that fabricating medical certificates required to operate commercial trucks and buses was so easy there was little incentive for drivers to obtain a legitimate document.

“Because so few attempts are made to authenticate a certificate, there is little risk that a driver will be caught if he or she forges or adulterates a certificate,” the study said.

One Ohio doctor contacted by the committee said forgery of medical certificates is so commonplace “no one gets alarmed by it anymore.”


© 2008, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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6 Responses to Federal Rules target medically unfit truck drivers. - Post a Comment

  1. Heidi Rockwell

    While we are at it , what about making all the old people on drugs get a medical examination to drive a car. Instead of targeting the commercial side. There are a lot more cars than trucks and buses, lets just make everybody get a medical exam. Any person that is physically or medically impaired should not be driving period. They cause more havoc and accidents than commercial drivers. And lets not let anyone under 21 drive either. Heck, lets just make everybody drive 35 MPH too.

  2. Phil

    Sometimes regulation goes way too far, and tends to do far more damage than good. Who the hell are these politicians working for? The Illuminati? Doesn’t seem like they’re working too effectively for us too often. I may need reading glasses to read when indoors. I have passed the eye test at the driver license place when I moved into the state. I need to use primateen mist for bronchial asthma. I have loaded, lumped and unloaded trucks like anything and have driven forklifts and delivery trucks for years and am thinking of getting my C.D.L.. Now I get to wonder if the legislature is going to make that impossible for a poor innocent hard working person like myself. What if my neighbor smoked a joint of pot thirty years ago, can he get a job?

  3. Allen Smith

    This is just another example of Government getting into our lives more. I would also point out the fact that people can jump in a massive size RV and take off down the road and drive non-stop if they want to! Where’s the logic in that? … thanks for the posts


  4. David

    It does scares me to think of the damage a commercial driver can do with his vehicle if he has a ” loss of vehicle control” due to a physical or mental health condition. In Canada my physical has never been more than a blood pressure test, eye chart test, urine, blood work and asking me 20 questions which I could lie about.

    Our doctors are paid a set amount per office visit so it may not pay them to take more than 15-20 minutes to give you your physical. The government needs to force the doctors to follow the D.O.T. guidelines for physical ability to operate a commercial vehicle and pay them for their time to do it properly. The trucking companies must compensate the driver wages to take the few days off to recieve a proper physical.

    Again this is an issue of the rules being in place but not enforced. Welcome to the world of government and law enforcement. If it costs to much for them to enforce then lets overlook it.

    What is cheaper, properly asses a drivers ability to operate a vehicle, or the cost of a fatal accident causing death?

  5. Jordan

    First and foremost, while I understand that people are upset about the government having to step in, people must understand that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put this on the sidelines for almost 8 years, and they have failed to inact the 8 regulations that were proposed, which has led to many casualities. So the government coming in, should be exciting, because it will help decrease the casualties. The one thing I will stand in opposition to, is that states have 3 years to comply, because hasn’t it been put on a hault for long enough. States should have to agree NOW, we can’t risk lives anymore. This just begs the question: What happens if they don’t comply, and it is put on the sideline for even longer. Action must take place now. To many innocent people have died.

  6. Allen Smith

    All good points………

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