It sounds too ridiculous to be true. Are bus and truck drivers receiving money from the federal government for their supposed disabilities still out driving buses and trucks? Unfortunately, it is true. And not only is this an issue right now, but is has been a known issue for many years. Unfortunately, many innocent men and women have died in preventable truck accidents over the years as a result of federal inaction.
A congressional inquiry was recently launched to investigate why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hasn’t done more to prevent medically unfit bus and truck drivers from getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately, this inquiry comes too late for the families of those killed or injured in bus and truck accidents caused by operators who had no right to be driving.
Death and injury at the hands of unfit drivers
The most recent and terrible tragedy involving a driver who should have not been on the road was in Sherman, Texas. A driver whose medical certificate – which is required by the FMCSA for him to legally operate a bus – had expired was driving the bus at the time of the accident. Complicating this case was the fact that Angel Tours, the company operating the bus, was found to have an “unsatisfactory” rating with the FMCSA. The bus itself was found to have a wheel repair that is not allowed by law, and may have been what contributed to the accident.
Safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to prevent accidents at the hands of unfit drivers were originally proposed after a tragic accident in New Orleans in 1999, which took the lives of 22 people. In that crash, the driver suffered life-threatening kidney and heart conditions but somehow still held a valid license and medical certificate. The driver was seen slumped in his seat by a passenger moments before the crash, and died three months later from his health conditions.
Safety recommendations not followed
The NTSB recommendations to the FMCSA included:
- Ensuring examiners who certify drivers as medically fit are qualified and know what to look for
- Setting up a system to track medical certificate applications to prevent drivers from doctor shopping
- Providing a mechanism for reporting drivers with potentially debilitating medical conditions
However, a recent AP News review of 7.3 million commercial bus and truck driver violations revealed that drivers violating federal medical laws were found in every state. In addition, a GAO investigation found that 19 out of 37 commercial drivers who had a positive drug test in the last two years were hired elsewhere less than a month later and did not disclose their previous drug test results.
It is disturbing to find out that the FMCSA has not successfully implemented recommendations made nearly a decade ago, a failure which has cost numerous lives and caused unnecessary and preventable accidents and injuries.
If you or someone you has been the victim of a serious tractor trailer accident, then we want to hear from you. Please contact the Northern Virginia law offices of Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas today and let us work with you to secure the justice and compensation that you deserve.
DULANEY, LAUER & THOMAS, LLP
98 Alexandria Pike, Suite 11
Warrenton, VA 20186
Toll Free: 888.907.2631