By: Allan M. Siegel
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
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
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,