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Carolyn Kaster/AP

Truckers Driving Despite Medical Risks

July 22, 2008 09:10 AM
by Josh Katz
Truck and bus drivers throughout the United States hold commercial licenses even though they are at risk for medical problems like seizures and bouts of unconsciousness.

30-Second Summary

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The Associated Press indicates that hundreds of thousands of truck or bus drivers qualify for federal disability payments, yet are still eligible to drive. The article cites a study from the Government Accountability Office to be released later in the week.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims it has not finished “any of eight recommendations that U.S. safety regulators have proposed since 2001,” including one that “would set minimum standards for officials who determine whether truckers are medically safe to drive.” Another regulation would ban “doctor shopping,” the practice of drivers finding doctors who will clear them to drive despite their medical conditions.

The GAO study found that more than 563,000 commercial drivers were eligible for full disability benefits, and it “identified more than 1,000 drivers with vision, hearing or seizure disorders, which generally would prohibit a trucker from obtaining a valid commercial license.”

The Transportation Department said that 5,300 people died and 126,000 people were injured from large commercial bus or truck accidents in 2006.

But truck driver Gary Hull, 52, explains why it would be difficult, if not harmful, to instate harsher regulations on drivers. “Do you enjoy your clothing and house? Without the truck driver you would have none of it,” he said. “Our economy is based on the truck. People don’t understand the ramifications of making it more restrictive for truck drivers to drive.”

Recently, there has also been concern over airline pilots flying when dangerously impaired by fatigue, but little has been done to cut pilots’ workloads or spread out their hours.

Headline Link: ‘Safety Study Warns Of Unfit Truckers’

Background: Trucker fatigue; cheating drug tests

Related Topic: ‘NTSB Tells FAA to Curb Pilot Fatigue—Again’

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