Medical examiners must be government certified to clear truck drivers to get behind the wheel. This means no more doctor shopping
I first became aware of the epidemic in the trucking industry of unfit truck drivers doctor shopping to be cleared to drive when I was helping the family of a man who was tragically killed. My client’s life was taken in a truck crash caused by a truck driver who had epilepsy and was driving on powerful anti-seizure narcotics. But it didn’t stop him from driving his 80,000 pound tractor trailer on the roads. He just found the right doctor to clear him to drive.
This problem of medically disabled truck drivers who are doctor shopping has been around for a long time. Before a truck driver can get behind the wheel, he or she must be medically certified as physically qualified under § 391.41 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs).
Yet there are close to 600,000 commercial truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions — and who qualify for full federal disability payments, according to a U.S. Government Accountability Office study from 2010.
This is because the rule requiring truckers to be medically certified has had little standardization among medical professionals.
As an attorney who is considered by many lawyers to be a “trucking attorney” because I’ve litigated several hundred truck accident cases, I’ve seen quite a bit of this problem. I also know these medical exams are often abused.
There’s tremendous pressure on truckers to find a medical doctor to certify their medical fitness according to the law. After all, if they can’t be cleared, they can’t drive. Once truckers find these doctors, word spreads and other truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions flock to get certified, even though they truly have no business driving. These doctors are known to give a clean bill of health to just about anyone – even when the truckers they’re examining have very serious medical conditions that pose a real threat to everyone else on the roads.
Hopefully, the days of doctor shopping are now be over.
A new National Registry law went into effect May 21, 2014, requiring all interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers to get their medical certificates from a certified medical examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
Here’s how truckers can find a certified medical examiner:
- Visit the National Registry website and search by Zip Code, State, or examiner name.
- Choose a certified medical examiner from the list and call to make an appointment.
- If your preferred health care professional isn’t on the list, simply refer him or her to the Certified Medical Examiners page to learn more about getting certified.
If a trucker has already had an exam and has a current certificate, that certificate will be valid until its regular expiration date.
I believe this is a great move for safer roadways in Michigan. Fewer truck drivers with serious medical disabilities behind the wheel will hopefully mean fewer truck accident tragedies on our roads. The National Registry will help ensure a higher level of integrity and scrutiny in the truck driver medical screening process.