The Government Accountability Office, a government watchdog, has found about 4%, or 563,000 U.S. truck and bus driving license holders are receiving full federal disability benefits while still holding their commercial driver’s license. Drivers’ disabilities include hearing, vision, and seizure problems. Some are so severe, license holders would generally be denied certification to drive trucks and buses.
The report stated tractor-trailer and bus drivers have suffered seizures, heart attacks or unconscious spells that have led to deadly accidents. The problems persist even after many government warnings and hundreds of deaths and injuries blamed on the drivers’ health problems. The U.S. Transportation Department said 5,300 people died in 2006 due to wrecks involving large commercial trucks or buses and about 126,000 more were injured. A recent federal safety study found that cases in which drivers fell asleep, suffered a heart attack or seizure or otherwise were physically impaired were a leading cause of serious crashes involving large trucks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an agency responsible for cracking down on unfit truckers, has admitted that it has not completed any of the eight recommendations United States safety regulators proposed in 2001. Two recommendations are setting a minimum standard for officials who determine whether truckers are medically safe to drive and preventing truckers from doctor shopping to find those that might overlook risky health conditions.
This, in this author’s opinion – having represented a number of family’s who have had family member’s killed or have themselves been seriously injured because of serious truck crashes – is a large problem that needs to be dealt with expeditiously by the federal government. There are many good truck drivers on the roads, and America needs these people for its economy to function well, but citizens do not need unfit and unhealthy drivers operating these massive tractors and trucks on our highways. The risks are extraordinary, and the consequences can be catastrophic on many levels.