Health issues among Long-Haul Truck Drivers a Cause for Concern

It is important that those licensed to drive large, heavy trucks be capable of remaining physically and mentally able to do so. It does not take an expert on truck accidents or roadway safety to determine that, if a tractor-trailer driver had severe epilepsy or was prone to fainting at unpredictable times, that person could end up causing calamitously bad accidents with the gigantic vehicle they were entrusted with driving. This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers to obtain a thorough medical examination prior to obtaining a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The purposes of this examination are often thwarted, however, through the granting of exemptions to those suffering from conditions that could cause them to lose consciousness on the road.

The FMCSA has crafted careful and thorough rules governing commercial drivers of large trucks, in order to prevent as many accidents as possible and protect both the drivers themselves and others on the road. In addition to rules limiting the hours a driver can be behind the wheel and minimum rest breaks, there are also limits on who can be a driver based on their current medical history and conditions. The list of conditions that a CDL holder should not have is long, and targeted at conditions that could cause the driver to unexpectedly lose consciousness or otherwise lose the ability to physically control the vehicle, such as nerve damage to the hands or feet, neurological conditions, severe sleep apnea, heart disease, severe high blood pressure, and certain forms of arthritis. Unfortunately, truck driver health is much poorer than that of the average person, including high rates of behaviors and conditions linked to heart disease such as obesity and smoking, as well as high rates of chronic fatigue.

While many of these conditions should rule out these individuals from work as commercial long-haul drivers, a shortage of capable candidates has led to the FMCSA granting a large number of exemptions from the medical requirements for candidates. While some individuals may be able to treat and control a diagnosis with one of these conditions, not all can, or do. In one incident, a tractor-trailer driver who had recently undergone surgery to treat an obstructed artery lost consciousness while back on the road, which authorities presumed to be due to his reduced blood flow. Unfortunately, while unconscious, the driver crashed his truck into a bus of tourists, resulting in the deaths of three. In another incident, a Greyhound bus driver with sleep apnea had stopped using his breathing assistance (c-pap) machine while sleeping, causing him to become highly fatigued. The driver fell asleep behind the wheel and rolled the bus over an embankment, killing one and injuring dozens more.

If you have been hurt in a truck accident or bus accident in Alabama, contact experienced Dothan personal injury law firm Cobb, Boyd, White & Cobb for a free consultation on your claims at 334-677-1000.