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Doctors for truckers must be trained on physical qualifications affecting the ability to drive safely

May 5, 2012 by Steven M. Gursten

New safety rule may help to prevent truck accidents due to truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions like sleep apnea

There’s an important new safety rule that requires healthcare professionals and doctors who perform medical exams for truck and bus drivers to be trained, tested and certified on the specific physical qualifications that affect the trucker’s ability to safely drive.

It’s about time.

The doctors who examine truck drivers have been woefully unprepared for too long. It is also quite a game with truckers who do have serious medical conditions and who know damn well the medical examiners who will always give them a passing grade. They know which medical examiners to go to, and which to avoid. To help the cause, peruse the classifieds of any popular magazine for the trucking industry today, and see dozens of ads for all sorts of agents and pills that can mask and disguise illegal drugs.

As a truck accident attorney, I am pleased with this new safety rule. It’s a start. If it’s enforced, it will be another step in help preventing otherwise completely preventable, deadly truck crashes that occur at the hands of truckers with serious medical conditions. These are drivers who should never have been behind the wheel to start. These are drivers who threaten us all, and all of our families, every time they get behind the wheel.

Medical examiners perform approximately 3 million exams on commercial truck and bus drivers each year, according to an announcement by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. LaHood said the new rule will ensure that healthcare professionals keep in mind the many demands required to operate large trucks and passenger buses.

LaHood is right. There are many physical demands involved in driving a commercial truck, and it’s imperative that truck drivers are healthy so they can keep up with these demands. The problem is, many truck drivers on the roads today are far from healthy and alert.

For instance, there are close to 600,000 commercial truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions and who qualify for full federal disability payments driving trucks on the roads today, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study. This means there are (at least) 600,000 truckers on our roads with epilepsy, heart disease and various other illnesses and injuries that can greatly impair their ability to operate an 80,000-pound commercial truck.

We really hope that this new rule also helps also identify and treat sleep apnea in truckers. Just last week I discussed an Australian sleep study that found that 40 percent of Australian truckers have sleep apnea.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says it developed this rule, called the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, as part of its commitment to “enhancing the medical oversight of interstate drivers, and preventing commercial vehicle-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.”

Steven Gursten is head of Michigan Auto Law and one of the top truck accident attorneys in the country. He is past president of the American Association for Justice Truck Accident Litigation Group, and has received the top-reported jury verdict in Michigan for a truck accident case, according to Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Steve was named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly Leader in the Law for his work to promote national truck safety.

Related information to protect yourself:

Safety rules be damned when it comes to truck companies cutting costs

Truck lawyers must investigate a trucker’s background and history

Support for truck drivers

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan truck accident attorneys today.

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