The law requires new and current commercial drivers to be healthy enough to operate their vehicles safely. Drivers are expected to see physicians and be cleared to drive at least once every two years, and if they don't state agencies may revoke their commercial status. One might think that's enough reason for drivers to handle physicals properly, but is that always the case?
Answer: Requirements for DOT physical exams aren't foolproof and are sometimes exploited by truck drivers who want to stay on the road despite not being in good health.
“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 Do Truck Drivers Try to Get Around the System?
While the goal of DOT physicals is to ensure the safety of commercial drivers and the general public, its requirements for medical certification mean drivers who think they won’t pass a physical may fear they'll be out of a job. If their next evaluation might mean they can no longer put food on the table, some may try to find ways around it.
Over the years we've seen a few different ways truck drivers have tried to avoid the important health requirements of their profession. One of the most egregious examples involved a chiropractor in Atlanta: Federally certified to perform DOT physicals and working out of a local truck stop, he allegedly falsified medical exams and reports on behalf of over 6500 commercial drivers for cash. Some of those drivers had serious career-ending medical problems and yet miraculously received clearance to keep hauling freight, yet only one of thousands felt the need to tell authorities.
That’s an extreme example, of course, and many truck drivers looking to slip under the DOT radar might try something more subtle. For example, they might ask around about which physicians have a more "relaxed" view of their health problems and then book their exams accordingly. Whatever their strategy, though, their goal is to stay on the road even if it might put them and other people at risk.
How Does This Affect Truck Accident Victims?
Semi-trucks, buses, construction equipment, and other commercial vehicles become abundantly more dangerous with an unhealthy driver at the wheel, and unfortunately many people have suffered serious or even fatal injuries because a commercial driver ignored their duty to public safety.
That's why a good truck accident attorney will carefully examine a trucker's medical history—including his DOT physical results—while investigating a commercial wreck. If the driver found a way to cheat the physicals, warning signs from other doctor or hospital visits may help investigators realize that.
Finding proof that the driver was unfit to do the job would be invaluable for holding them and their employer responsible. The skilled truck accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices can help. If you or a loved one were hurt in an 18-wheeler accident, call today for a free consultation.