In 2007, a truck crossed a median on a Kansas highway and struck a SUV with two women and their children inside. One of the women and her infant son were killed. The driver of the truck suffered from sleep apnea and was driving his truck with a provisional medical card. When that card expired, he was recertified as medically fit simply by visiting a different doctor.
From 2002 to 2008, there have been at least 826 crashes in which at least one person was killed as a result of medically unfit truck drivers, according to a study published by the Center for Public Integrity. Interstate commercial truckers work long, solitary hours and each year are required to undergo a complete medical examination to be certified as fit by the U.S. Department of Transportation. However, flaws in the certification process allow almost any driver, no matter what his or her condition, to gain certification, which increases the danger level on our nation’s highways.
While the exam is necessary to obtain the certification, there are only minimal standards. And in most states, any type of health care physician, from an MD to a chiropractor or physician’s assistant, can administer the exam. Even more disconcerting, a trucker can be 1,000 miles away from his doctor, yet still find someone to give the exam for a small fee via “stop and go” clinics at travel stops throughout the U.S. And if the trucker fails the exam, he can take it again with another doctor. In some cases, truckers have simply printed out their own forms and filled in the information.
Truckers with expired medical certifications are simply fined and allowed back on the road. Congress has tried to address the problem, but will little success. A new rule that requires truckers to submit their medical certification with their state driver’s license agency will not go into effect until 2012.
If you, or a loved one, has been injured due to an accident with a truck driver, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer can review your case, explain your rights and help you determine your best legal options.