New federal trucking regulations will require properly certified physicians to conduct the physicals of many commercial truckers. It is hoped that this will decrease the number of trucking accidents. However, these regulations will not go into effect until May, 2014. Two recent accidents highlight the need for these regulations.
In one accident on March 20, 2013, a semi missed the rest area entrance on I-84 near Arlington, Oregon and struck the rear end of a parked semi-trailer. Reportedly, the truck traveled through gravel and grass, went through a fence, knocked over several garbage cans, and entered the rest area without braking before crashing into the other truck. The investigation is ongoing but Oregon State Police suspect that a medical problem was a contributing factor.
Another accident, which also occurred in March, involved a semi and an SUV. The semi, which was in the right lane of traffic, drifted across four highway lanes, clipped an SUV’s front end, and came to a stop in the median. The SUV came to a stop after rolling into the ditch to the right of the highway. According to Jeff Padilla, an Illinois State Police Sgt, the semi-driver passed out while driving, after having taken medication. The driver was ticketed for improper lane use.
Though the Department of Transportation currently requires commercial truckers to get a physical every two years, the existing regulations allow these exams to be carried out by a number of different providers — from medical doctors to chiropractors. Often, if a driver was denied his medical card by a physician because of a medical issue, he could just go to another doctor until he found one that would approve him. Many physicians don’t fully understand the Department of Transportation’s medical requirements and might, as a result, approve a driver even when he didn’t meet the standards. The new regulations will ensure that the only physicians who do the physicals are ones that understand the requirements.
Though there is no way to be sure, it’s possible that these trucking accidents could have been prevented if the new regulations had already gone into effect.