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The Healthy Highway – Truck Driver Fitness

November 17, 2011

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A truck driver must pass a medical examination and carry a medical certificate to legally drive a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with 49 CFR Part 391.41 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Regulations.  As of today’s date, professional drivers who hold a valid Commercial Drivers License are required to have the medical examiner’s certificate on their person.   However, beginning January 30, 2012, the medical examiner’s certificate will be turned into and held by the State that issued the commercial license.  Medical certificates will then be kept as part of an electronic database.

As a trial attorney, I have too often seen insurance companies attempt to defend their driver’s negligent act by claiming a “sudden medical emergency” as a means to avoid paying for the harm caused to the innocent victim.  The sudden medical emergency defense relieves a driver from liability in those rare situations where the driver has a sudden loss of consciousness that is not reasonably foreseeable.  The defense is not available when the defendant was made aware of facts sufficient to lead a reasonably prudent person to anticipate that driving would likely result in an accident.  Driver fitness as required by the FMCSA Code makes it more difficult for trucking companies to defend cases on the basis of a sudden medical emergency.

As defined in the code, the purpose of the physical examination is to “detect the presence of physical, mental, or organic conditions of such a character and extent as to affect the driver’s ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.” See 49 CFR Part 391.43 The medical examination report for the commercial driver fitness determination includes a health history, physical examination, vision test, hearing test, blood pressure, laboratory and other test findings.  Insulin dependent diabetes is a disqualifying factor.  However, mild diabetes controlled by oral medication and/or diet and exercise is not disqualifying but requires the driver to “remain under adequate medical supervision.”

Beyond the required medical examiner’s certificate, the trucking industry has taken health requirements seriously.  Healthy alternatives, such as fruit, can now be purchased at most truck stops.  Trucking magazines publish regular articles providing suggestions for healthy tips for drivers.  These magazines also offer suggestions online.  For example, visit “today’s daily health tip” that would benefit all motorists at the Truckers News “Fit for the Road” website.

Contrary to popular belief, truck drivers are doing their part making sure our highways are healthy and safe.  The rest of the motoring public should follow the trucking industry’s example by voluntarily going for annual physicals and making healthy lifestyle choices.  One motorist’s medical emergency should not be another innocent family's tragedy.  You too can do your part to keep our highways healthy.

Authored by: Trial Attorney / Truck Attorney - Andrew R. Young – Class A CDL License

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