Health challenges

CDL medical requirements are being evaluated on many fronts, but that doesn’t mean you need
to leave the road.

Between them, Jerry and Teresa Moore of Abingdon, Va., had been driving for almost 31 years, and they loved their jobs. But an increasing number of medical rules and regulations handed down from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made them question if trucking was the right industry for them.

“Health concerns were a factor in my leaving trucking,” Teresa says. “I had gained so much weight, and while I didn’t have any other problems, the weight problem made me a candidate for things like heart disease, diabetes, hypertension – just to name a few.”

Several years ago, Teresa left her job as a driver for Warrior Xpress to start an assisted living facility, and Jerry wasn’t far behind her.

“I already had heart problems, diabetes and hypertension,” Jerry says. He was a 25-year trucking veteran and had driven “everything but a tanker” when he left the road in 2007. “When the company we worked for sold out to a larger company [Celadon], I decided to join Teresa in her business.”

With the driver population going more gray and industry health requirements seemingly getting more and more strict, stories like the Moores’ are not near as uncommon as they used to be. As drivers get older and continue to run the same routes with the same hours and lifestyle, odds are against them for dodging all the many ailments FMCSA says can disqualify them.

A growing list of standards
In July 2008, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced results of a study that found “there are so few controls over how drivers obtain medical certificates that it’s ‘relatively easy’ to circumvent the physical examination requirement,” according to a July 24 Associated Press article. Truckers violating medical rules have been caught in every state.

Moreover, focus on medical problems as a contributing factor in crashes has been on the upswing. A study performed in 2007 found that cases in which drivers fell asleep, suffered heart attacks or seizures or were otherwise physically impaired were a leading factor in serious crashes involving large trucks (this study also included healthy drivers who fell asleep). Reports indicate that 5,300 people died in crashes involving large commercial trucks or buses in 2006 and about 126,000 more were injured.

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FMCSA is pushing to create tougher rules pertaining to which doctors are allowed to perform CDL medical exams. On Dec. 1, the governing body issued a final rule requiring interstate CDL holders to provide a current copy of their medical examiner’s certificates to their state driver licensing agency (SDLA). The rule, which takes effect Jan. 30, also requires the SDLA to record on the Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS) driver record the self-certification the driver made regarding the applicability of the federal driver qualification rules and, for drivers subject to the requirements, the medical certification status information required by the rule.

States must comply by Jan. 30, 2012, and all CDL holders must submit their self-certification by Jan. 30, 2014, as to whether they are subject to the physical qualification rules. Another federal requirement for medical examiners also is in the works.

“Anyone who’s going to be giving a DOT physical has to attend a course and pass an examination to be on the provider list to give DOT physicals,” says Professional Drivers Medical Depots’ Dr. John McElligott, referring to a proposed FMCSA rule known as the National Registry. “The higher-ups think that’s going to open up the door