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At last, FMCSA is tightening up medical certification of truck drivers

As a trucking safety trial attorney in Atlanta, I often see cases involving medically unfit drivers. I’ve seen cases where truckers were blind in one eye, were supposed to carry an oxygen tank 24/7 for COPD, or had untreated obstructive sleep apnea, all medically disqualifying conditions.

Fortunately, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has initiated efforts to tighten medical certification requirements.

As reported by the Kentucky Post, in 2008 a congressional investigation revealed roughly one-third of medical certificates examined in roadside stops could not be verified. The doctors either didn’t exist or denied ever examining the truck driver.

Blank medical cards have been readily available on government websites. Until now, there has been nothing to stop drivers from just filling out the certificates themselves. A trucker could pick a doctor’s name from the phonebook, sign the certificate in their own hand, and look up the doctor’s medical license number on the internet. There is now no electronic database for truck drivers’ medical cards. When a trooper stops a trucker, there is no way for the officer to verify the medical card is real or valid. It’s just a piece of paper.

The congressional investigation also revealed more than 500,000 commercial drivers qualify for full medical disability, according to federal agencies like the Veterans Administration and the Social Security Administration.

Until the new rules on medical certification take effect, those of us who handle trucking cases for the people hurt by truck accidents must be diligent in checking behind the medical certifications, which are too often bogus.

Ken Shigley is an interstate trucking trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. He has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.

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2 responses to “At last, FMCSA is tightening up medical certification of truck drivers”

  1. Jordan says:

    I drive a work truck for my company it’s a 20 footer gvw is 17995 and was wondering if I need a medical card. I was stopped in Maryland 2 weeks ago and said I needed one but I didn’t know our company need one. Please tell me it we need it and where to get one. Thank you for ur time. Jordan

  2. Thinking out-of-the-box might spur new creative methods to manage driver health and wellness. It’s a two-way street when it comes to who should be responsible for cost assocaited with driver health. Motor carriers should not feel compelled to cover all the cost, the driver should have a stake in his/her personal health. If every motor carrier fleet put $50 per month into a wellness program and every driver matched it declining health conditions would improve. It would add years to their life and our highways would be safer. We have developed what we believe is an answer to the growing problem, called HealthPass. Offered to fleets of 50 or more drivers. We include FMCSA’s Gettin’ in Gear wellness education on CD along with medical utilization. Electronic medical record, unlimited tele-medicine consult a physicain, comprehensive bood profile testing, doctor office vistts, expanded diagnostic testing etc. In addition we inlcuded sleep apnea disease management to screen all drivers, level one testing, case management utilization, monitoring and DME.

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