While you can manage many medical conditions with the right treatment, there are strict regulations for commercial truck drivers. While this could seem unfair to some drivers, it’s a vital protocol to keep everyone safe. Driving a semi-truck with cars, SUVs, and trucks requires care, skill, and professionalism. 

If a commercial vehicle driver has a medical condition affecting their ability to drive safely, they should no longer work as a commercial driver — they may be able to find a rewarding career in another field.

It’s an important safety measure enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that will prevent catastrophic auto collisions and significant truck accidents. The FMCSA requires drivers to be able to operate vehicles safely, secure and check loads being carried, and conduct pre-trip and post-trip safety inspections. 

Even though there is a shortage of licensed commercial truck drivers in the United States, companies must be diligent in hiring medically certified and qualified individuals. It is never ok to hire an unqualified driver just to fill a position. 

Disqualifying Medical Conditions

The FMCSA lists the following as medical conditions that disqualify drivers from operating commercial trucks due to the risk of semi-truck accidents:

  • Vision loss – Proper vision is necessary for any driver, but especially for drivers of commercial trucks.
    There’s a lot more to think about when it comes to driving a commercial vehicle, and being able to see clearly — even with glasses — is imperative. Vision loss includes peripheral vision, which is necessary for blind spot checks.
  • Hearing loss – It’s not uncommon for a driver to honk their horn if they are in a commercial driver’s blind spot. A driver needs to have good hearing, not just for honking drivers. Hearing is an essential part of awareness while being behind the wheel.
  • Epilepsy – Epilepsy is a severe medical condition that temporarily impairs a driver completely, taking away their ability to operate any motor vehicle, let alone a commercial truck.
    Most individuals with epilepsy are not permitted to have a driver’s license unless they are effectively medicated for their seizures and haven’t had one for some time. The exact time frame varies by state.
  • Insulin Use – An individual taking insulin can have severe hypoglycemic episodes when blood glucose levels are dangerously low.

    Experiencing hypoglycemia can cause you to experience a multitude of symptoms such as the following:
  • Shakiness
  • Nerves
  • Anxiousness
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Fast or unsteady heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Nausea
  • pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Headaches
  • Clumsiness
  • Nightmares
    Hypoglycemia is a severe medical condition that must be under control for a driver to operate a vehicle safely. 

As you can see, in some way, each of these conditions impairs a driver’s ability to drive safely. It’s why there are regulations in place to keep drivers – commercial and non-commercial alike – safe on the road.

Applying for Exemptions

Truck drivers who suffer from the above medical conditions can apply for exemptions from the FMCSA. While there isn’t a 100% guarantee that your exemption will be approved, you have a good chance if you supply sufficient evidence of your ability to drive safely. 

Accompanying documentation such as medical records, driver history, and employment records will often be submitted when applying for an exception. FMCSA decides within 180 days of a driver submitting their application.

Based on new rules by the FMCSA that went into effect in recent years, truck drivers with stable insulin regimens and properly controlled diabetes will no longer need to apply for an exemption. However, they will need to provide proof that their condition is under control. 

Department of Transportation Physical Examination

In addition to the above medical conditions, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires commercial drivers to undergo a physical examination. This examination helps ensure that the driver is well enough to operate a vehicle and perform the duties associated with their job.

A licensed medical examiner listed in the FMCSA’s National Registry must perform these physical exams. A physical exam taken with a licensed medical examiner who is not listed will not count. 

Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate Program
If a commercial driver drives across state lines as part of their job, they must take the Skills Performance Evaluation. 

This evaluation allows all drivers to cross state lines, even if they have missing or impaired limbs, as long as they wear a prosthetic device that demonstrates their ability to drive safely. On-and-off-road activities can prove this ability.

Failure to Properly Screen Truck Drivers

While it is incumbent on truck drivers to meet the physical requirements and undergo medical screenings as needed, their employers must also be diligent when screening employees. 

When trucking companies fail to check their driver’s medical records, they could put an unqualified person behind the wheel of their tractor-trailer, ultimately making them responsible for an accident. 

Who Is Liable When Medical Problems Cause a Truck Accident?

In cases when medical conditions contribute to an accident, liability will depend on the circumstances of the crash. 

Truck drivers who failed to receive certification or provided false information about their suitability for the job may be liable for the crash. The trucking company that employed the driver could be responsible for failing to vet their employee properly.

An attorney can help you and your loved ones in these matters, ensuring the liable party is held accountable for the harm they caused.

Contact Our Team of Auto Accident Lawyers

For more information about your legal rights and options following a truck collision, be sure to contact an experienced injury accident attorney. The team at Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson is here to help you if you’ve been in a commercial truck accident.  

With over 20 years of experience representing personal injury victims, Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson will fight for you to get you the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering. 

With offices in West Jordan and Provo, our team of expert lawyers will meet with you for a free case evaluation to see how we can best assist you with your personal injury claim. Call us at 801.500.4000 or contact us through our website to get started.