Tennessee big rig truckers know that every two years commercial drivers need a physical to renew their commercial driver’s license or “CDL”. This CDL examination ensures the driver is in good health–or at least in good enough health to drive a big rig or a school bus. A federal study released Monday by the Government Accountability Office reveals that over half a million commercial drivers who’ve passed their CDL physical are either eligible for, and many already receive, full disability benefits from the federal government.
In GOA’s study to be presented tomorrow during the House Transportation Committee hearing on trucker’s health and safety, researchers reviewed the medical records for CDL holders in 12 states, including Tennessee. What they found was that more than 562,000 bus drivers and truckers passing their CDL physical may be a danger on the road because of disabilities ranging from epilepsy to impaired hearing and vision. In Tennessee, about 1 in 20 licensed semi-truck and bus drivers are actively receiving full disability benefits-and nearly half of these disabled persons were considered fully disabled when they passed their test to be a Tennessee bus or truck driver. As the report states:
Commercial drivers with serious medical conditions, even those whose conditions qualify them for full federal disability benefits, can still meet DOT medical fitness requirements to safely operate a commercial vehicle and thus hold CDLs. However, there is general agreement that careful medical evaluations are necessary to ensure that serious medical conditions do not preclude the safe operation of a commercial vehicle.
The GAO report remains tactful by suggesting, as the Department of Transportation states, that it is physically possible to drive a semi-truck while qualifying for full disability benefits, but the report does advise caution and reconsidering standards for the safety of our nation’s drivers. As the report states, approximately 5,000 citizens die every year from tractor-trailer truck accidents, and over 125,000 more drivers are injured from truck or bus collisions. DOT’s own studies show that 12% of commercial driver-caused crashes were caused by the driver falling asleep, having a seizure or heart attack, or other reported physical impairment. To save Tennessee Law Blog readers the math, that could mean 530 people with loved ones still alive and walking the earth, and that’s over 13,000 bus or truck-related car crash injuries that never should have been. (Click for more from HHP on Tennessee truck collision lawsuits.)
Even more painful for those who are injured or lose a loved one I have met through these trucking accident lawsuits, most truck drivers walk away from these collisions relatively uninjured–except, I suppose, for whatever persisting medical conditions had qualified them for full disability.
Special federal and Tennessee safety laws and rules apply to truckers, including fitness examinations and semi-truck maintenance records. As one of the few Tennessee attorneys unafraid to take on the trucking company lawyers, I know what to look for in the trucking company’s records and accident reports to reconstruct the collision and determine the trucking company’s negligence in the crash. If you have been seriously injured or have lost someone in a semi-truck collision, call me at my Nashville, TN law offices at (615) 353-0930 or fill out HHP’s Tennessee legal action form to speak with me or other qualified trucking collision lawyers.