Personal injury Library

Can a Driver Still Operate an 18-Wheeler if They Fail a Physical?

Per the Department of Transportation, all commercial drivers must undergo regular physical exams to make sure they're in good enough shape to safely operate their vehicles. The requirement is inflexible and every commercial driver must comply at least once every 2 years to maintain their CDL. But what happens to drivers who fail the exam?

Answer: A commercial driver who fails a DOT physical may no longer legally operate a commercial vehicle.

The Rule

A person…must not operate a commercial motor vehicle unless he or she is medically certified as physically qualified to do so.

49 CFR § 391.41

How Can a Truck Driver Fail a Physical?

A truck driver may fail a DOT physical if they have conditions that interfere with their ability to drive safely. That could take a lot of forms, including but not limited to:

  • Un-correctable vision or hearing problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Disorders that cause dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Major respiratory or heart conditions

Any condition that could reasonably endanger the driver or others on the road may be enough to fail the exam.

What Happens if a Driver Fails a DOT Physical?

Failing the mandatory DOT physical generally means a truck driver is barred from further commercial operation.

Does a Driver Who Fails a Physical Have Any Options?

Sometimes there's really no way around the disqualification if the driver has a condition that poses a clear threat to them and others, but not every issue is quite so dire. The FMCSA has provisions for drivers to get a second opinion if they improve the problem that led to their first failure, like lowering high blood pressure with diet and exercise. A driver who improves such a condition is permitted to try once more at passing the physical. If they fail a second time, though, there are no more chances.

Why are DOT Physical Results Important if a Truck Driver Gets in an Accident?

A truck driver’s DOT exam results and other medical history may be crucial evidence after a commercial vehicle accident. One reason they're so important is to disprove any claim that the driver had a sudden emergency, meaning it was unpredictable and thus unavoidable (and conveniently no one would be responsible for the damage that followed). In many cases physicians' findings show the emergency was foreseeable, but in some they also showed the driver should have been removed from service long before he had a chance to cause such a wreck. In either case, health records can be invaluable for holding the driver and their employer accountable.

Unfortunately that information is rarely easy to obtain. Overcoming a company's reluctance to hand over potentially-damning evidence is one reason it's often best to get experienced truck accident attorneys in one's corner. If you or a loved one were hurt in an 18-wheeler accident and aren't sure what to do next, call Grossman Law Offices any time for a free consultation.

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