New Rule Shifts Gears On Health Exams For Commercial Drivers

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A new requirement is geared toward the health of commercial truck drivers and the safety of everyone on the roads...

Commercial drivers have long had to obtain a medical certification, but, now, the health professionals giving those exams must meet a certain standard.

4.8 million commercial motor vehicle drivers share the roads. In order to get their license, they must get a medical exam every two years that ensures they're fit to drive. Dr. Dale Garrett of Stormont-Vail WorkCare says the exam is looking for conditions that might cause sudden incapacitation or an inability to drive, where they could crash into or harm other people, in addition to conditions that might worsen over time, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

The National Transportation Safety Board's crash investigations indicate improper medical certifications of drivers with serious disqualifying conditions have directly contributed to injury-causing or fatal crashes. Because of that, a regulation that started May 21st requires the exams be done by clinicians with special certification.

Garrett is among several certified health professionals in the Topeka area. He says certified clinicians went through special training and testing to make certain they were aware of the current health guidelines for drivers as well as certain conditions drivers under which drivers may operate, including long hours and adverse weather conditions. In addition, he says career drivers may lead a different lifestyle than other professions, in terms of long hours sitting behind the wheel and perhaps a diet that includes more fast food or convenience foods.

Garrett says doctors will check blood pressure, look for diabetes and kidney conditions, and examine vision and hearing. Sleep apnea is another concern. Even if a driver has a disqualifying condition initially, Garrett says the goal is treatment first to get it under control and preserve the person's health and, only then, steer them back to the road.

"The larger issue is public safety," Garrett said. "If a driver chooses to go to a provider who doesn't understand the importance of well-controlled blood sugar or blood pressure, there's increased risk of that driver causing harm to the public."

Garrett says the new regulations will allow federal regulators to do check-ups on medical professionals, too, since they must submit information on their exams.


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