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Drivers Easily Evade Minimum Health Requirements Established by Federal Regulation

Guy next to a truck

Large trucks hold the potential to do vast amounts of damage, and driving a semi-truck for long distances requires a high degree of mental acuity, as well as certain important physical capabilities. A driver who has a medical condition or injury that could cause them to suddenly become unconscious, fail to hear an oncoming car or train, or lose feeling in their foot when they need to brake quickly could cause a very serious accident. It is for this reason that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has created strict rules governing who may obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and how these drivers should do their jobs. Without appropriate enforcement, however, these rules cannot keep the drivers who share the road with these trucks, as well as the truck drivers themselves, safe.

In order to ensure that a candidate for a CDL is physically capable of doing their job, the FMCSA requires applicants for CDLs to undergo a medical examination to be carried out by a doctor certified by the Department of Transportation. While these examinations are intended to be thorough, there is only so much that a physician can discover in a single visit. Applicants are instructed to provide complete medical histories to the doctors, as well, to ensure that the doctor is fully informed of any medical issues the individual faces. The FMCSA publishes a list of conditions from which licensed long-haul commercial drivers should not suffer if they wish to receive a CDL. This list includes severe high blood pressure, nerve damage in the hands or feet that could interfere with the ability to drive, heart disease, and alcoholism.

Drivers know that, if they disclose such a diagnosis, they could be putting their CDL at risk. With a reliance on the self-reporting of conditions that are not easily discernible, there exists the possibility that a driver with a concealed condition will become involved in an accident when that condition suddenly presents itself. This pattern has played out in numerous locations across the country, with tragic results. In one instance, a bus driver with serious sleep apnea that he failed to treat (among the FMCSA’s list of barred diagnoses) became extremely fatigued and fell asleep behind the wheel, rolling the bus over an embankment and injuring dozens of passengers. In another incident, a driver who had recently undergone cataract surgery crashed his 18-wheeler into a strip mall, killing himself, and was believed to be accelerating rather than braking at the time of the crash. Experts suggest that the FMCSA find an alternate way to ensure the safety of roadways that does not rely on the driver disclosing facts which could lead to the loss of his job.

If you or someone you love has been hurt in an accident with a large truck or tractor-trailer in New York, contact the skilled and diligent Hudson Valley personal injury attorneys at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello for a free consultation, at 845-331-4100 (Kingston), or 845-236-4411 (Marlboro).

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