Ensuring truck drivers are fit and healthy enough to operate commercial trucks and tractor-trailers is a critical part of protecting public safety. Because commercial trucks weigh tens of thousands of pounds, and transport heavy and sometimes dangerous cargo, a trucker with particular health problems can significantly increase the risks of devastating wrecks and put everyone’s life at risk. For this reason, trucking companies have an obligation to ensure their drivers meet medical criteria and comply with federal regulations requiring exams and certification.
In the past, we have discussed notable commercial vehicle accidents involving drivers with questionable medical histories, as well as the substantial risks posed by drivers with various health issues, such as untreated sleep apnea, a condition that makes truckers five times more likely to be involved in serious truck accidents. Although the federal government recently announced it would not be developing regulations to address sleep apnea in commercial drivers, there are still numerous other regulations in place that do focus on the health of truckers.
Earlier this year, we also discussed the story of Dr. Anthony Lefteris, known as “Dr. Tony,” who was arrested by federal authorities and accused of falsifying thousands of medical exams and certifications designed to ensure truckers are healthy enough to transport cargo on public roads and highways. As Dr. Tony’s operation made clear, many truckers who knew they wouldn’t be able to pass a medical examination went specifically to him for clearance. This is due to the strict exam requirements enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
The FMCSA, which is responsible for overseeing commercial truck and bus companies and drivers engaged in interstate travel, requires drivers to pass medical exams in order to maintain their Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDL). During an exam that evaluates hearing, vision, and drug and alcohol use, licensed medical providers also explore any medical conditions that would make drivers illegible for a CDL.
There are many medical conditions that prevent a driver from operating a commercial vehicle, including:
- Diabetes requiring insulin control
- Cardiovascular diseases (myocardial infarction, coronary insufficiency, angina pectoris, thrombosis, etc.)
- Respiratory dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Alcoholism diagnosis
In addition to these serious conditions, truckers are also evaluated for any medical history or clinical diagnosis of other conditions that would interfere with their ability to operate a motor vehicle. For example, severe arthritis, as well as other orthopedic, neuromuscular, or vascular diseases that affect a driver’s ability to control their rig could preclude them from maintaining a CDL. Identifying potential dangerous conditions is the hallmark of the FMCSA-mandated medical exams, and it helps keep our roadways safe.
Who’s Liable for an Unift Driver?
Unfortunately, as we have seen over the years, unfit and unhealthy drivers sometimes find their way behind the wheel of commercial trucks and buses. Often, this is the result of commercial drivers who provide false information during exams, work with examiners like Dr. Tony, or otherwise engage in untruthful and fraudulent behavior in order to conceal their medical conditions and receive a health certification.
While drivers themselves have an obligation to be honest during exams, their employers also have a duty to ensure they hire and retain drivers who are fit and healthy enough to pass those exams, and not pose unreasonable dangers on the road. In many cases where it is found that truckers with questionable health histories caused an accident, victims may be able to hold the trucking company or driver’s employer liable for negligently retaining an unfit driver.
As with almost any issue we see as truck accident lawyers, rules and regulations are only effective when they are followed. At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., we have seen the devastating results of safety violations, including those involving drivers who were unfit for duty and negligently retained by commercial vehicle operators. As advocates for the injured, we fight to show that this negligence should never be tolerated, and that responsible truckers and trucking companies are held liable for their failures.
If you have questions regarding a trucking accident that may have involved an unfit driver, feel free to contact our legal team for a free and confidential consultation about your rights. We proudly serve victims and families throughout Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland.