The GAO found numerous CDL drivers with serious medical conditions. One was a bus driver from Florida that continued to have a CDL and was being hired as a substitute bus driver. This man receives disability benefits for breathing problems that require him to use three daily inhalers and that he claims he, “occasionally blacks outs and forgets things.” This man should not be driving because he could have a breathing problem while on the road and black out. Further, this guy does not have a medical certificate which is required by the DOT to continue to have an active CDL.
Another case was a truck driver from Florida that receives a disability for multiple sclerosis who hauls circus equipment to different shows. Not only does this driver not have the required medical certificate, his medical condition causes fatigue and this can be very dangerous with a driver that travels all over the U.S. The driver could fall asleep and cause a major accident. Without a medical certificate it is impossible to know if the driver has any other conditions that would make him a very dangerous CDL driver to put on the road.
Another disturbing account was a truck driver in Maryland who receives a disability for being 100 percent deaf received a CDL license. The medical examiner claimed that this was an error. This obviously very dangerous for obvious reasons.
Many disabilities can affect an individual’s ability to be a commercial driver. While as advocates for the injured we would have to agree with the DOT that not all disabilities make someone exempt from receiving a CDL license, there are several disabilities, like fatigue, complete deafness and breathing problems that raise serious doubt on whether an individual is fit to have a CDL.
Fatigue is a perfect example. The bulk of trucker related regulations, focus on preventing fatigue. See http://semi-accident.com/fatigue.html To enforce those regulations while allowing someone who has abnormal fatigue to get a CDL, is incongruous. Would not a simple cross referencing of Federal Government data bases eliminate this problem? While Social Security does allow for certain trial returns to work, clearly those returns (if they involve a CDL) should be monitored with the same degree of zeal that the Social Security Administration too often uses to deny deserving people’s benefits.
Each year 5,300 people die and 126,000 people are injured in accidents involving commercial drivers and twelve percent of these accidents are caused by a CDL driver having fatigue, heart attack or a physical impairment. It is important for the DOT to take CDL licensing seriously and consider more thorough evaluations.
In our next blog, we examine the specific requirements to receive a CDL and the NTSB’s recommendations.
Attorney Gordon Johnson
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice
email@example.com :: 800-992-9447 :: Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.