Drivers’ health attracts widespread attention
The issue of truck drivers’ health garnered a lot of media attention in recent months. While almost all of the mainstream media coverage was negative, it did turn the spotlight on a subject Over the Road and Pro Trucker magazines have been urging the trucking industry to address in a positive manner for more than a year.
An Associated Press article titled “Deadly tolls: Sick truckers causing fatal wrecks” started the latest dust-up on July 21. The story – detailing accidents involving truckers who suffered seizures, heart attacks and unconscious spells while driving – was picked up and made the front page of newspapers around the country. Most of the national network and cable newscasts also picked up the story for broadcast that night.
On July 24, the Congressional Transportation and Infrastructure Oversight and Investigations Committee held a hearing on “FMCSA’s progress in improving medical oversight of commercial drivers.” Following are excerpts from the opening statement by Committee Chairman Rep. James L. Oberstar of Minnesota:
“Medical oversight of commercial drivers and its impact on safety on our roads is an issue this Committee has been troubled by for many years. … Congress charged FMCSA with an unmistakable safety mission: ‘The Administration shall consider the assignment and maintenance of safety as the highest priority.’ Tragically, we have made little progress in the number of deaths from crashes involving large trucks since FMCSA’s founding. “The safety impacts from this failure to act are real. In 2007, NHTSA reported that ‘heart attack or physical impairment’ was a factor in approximately 4,000 serious truck crashes. …
“Since 2001, the National Transportation Safety Board has made eight specific recommendations to improve medical oversight of commercial drivers and Congress has given the Administration mandates, but I regret to say that progress has been negligible. …
“One of NTSB’s recommendations in 2001 was for FMCSA to establish a system where critical medical information…would be available to examiners performing DOT medical exams. Yet this is one of the recommendations where no measurable progress has been made.
“Another area where FMCSA has failed to make any progress is in aiding detection of fraudulent medical certificates. … A dishonest driver can easily download the form from FMCSA’s Web site and fill it out himself. Right now, there is no mechanism for inspectors to verify a card’s authenticity. …
“This Committee applauds the trucking industry for employing individuals with illnesses and disabilities. If we allowed only individuals in perfect health to drive, we would solve all of our highway congestion problems. But making these allowances has to be done in a way that does not compromise public safety. There are simply too many defects in FMCSA’s medical certification program to adequately protect the traveling public.”
Source: Transportation and Infrastructure Oversight and Investigations Committee