Last week, U. S. House Representatives heard the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee denounce the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for not solving the problem of medically unfit truckers possessing fabricated medical certificates. The hearing focused on eight outstanding National Transportation Safety Board recommendations and many congressional mandates to ensure that commercial driver’s license holders are medically fit to drive. According to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, medical oversight of commercial drivers has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s “Most Wanted” list since 2003. The FMCA requires Interstate Commercial Drivers to pass a comprehensive physical exam before obtaining a commercial drivers license and carry a medical card, which has been issued by a qualified medical examiner and proves the driver meets the medical requirements, at all times and produce it upon request by State and Federal Inspectors. After an extensive investigation the committee found that there is no practicable mechanism in place for inspectors to determine whether a certificate is valid. Out of the eight recommendations, one of the main focuses of improvement made by the committee was for enforcement authorities to develop a way to identify invalid medical certification during safety inspections and routine stops. The committee believes the flaws in the medical certification process can lead to increased highway fatalities and injuries for commercial vehicle drivers, their passengers, and the public.
We, the attorneys here at the Brod Law Firm, are relieved to read about House lawmakers examining and addressing the issue of medically unfit truck drivers. We like to think these efforts will help make our roads less dangerous and lower the number of commercial truck accidents. It should be pointed out, however, that the report put out by the Committee states that its results cannot be generalized to the commercial driver or the medical examiner population as a whole. We find this point very important, because we know that commercial drivers are always assumed as the guilty party in any accident in which they are involved. That being said, it is also important not to underestimate the report and its findings. We find it disappointing that some medical professionals may not always use their best judgment when issuing medical certificates. After reading this report, we wondered how this information might frighten or impact the public, and we hope it doesn’t stop them from getting in their cars as usual. Whatever the public feels about the subject, our advice to them remains ever constant: Always use caution when sharing the road with a commercial truck. And this information put out by the committee should make drivers even more aware of the potential dangers that exist when they share the road with a commercial truck.
We also like the advice given by automedia.com in an article titled “Big Rig Blues-Don’t let those trucks get you down“, as well as their reminder that “without big rigs and their cargo, 82 percent of the country’s communities would be without groceries and other goods.” The article points out another important fact, which is, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Study, 75 percent of all truck related incidents are car initiated. This means that accidents between big trucks and cars are not always the fault of the big trucks. Most importantly, this shows drivers of cars don’t always know how to drive around trucks. In summary, the advice they give is as follows:
• Trucks have four blind spots and it’s important to avoid them.
• The most dangerous blind spots are to the left and right of the truck starting just beyond the cab and fanning across three lanes of traffic, and running the length of the truck.
• A big rig driver cannot see approximately 15 to 20 feet immediately in front of the cab, which should discourage you from merging into the middle of a long line of semis on the highway, especially if you’ve got a small sports car.
• If you are not sure if you are visible to the truck driver, look at his side mirrors. If you can see his face, he can see your car.
• The obvious blind spot is behind a big rig, up to 300 feet behind.
• Everything that impacts your vehicle impacts a big rig-times 10. If there are steep grades or wind impacting your commute, make sure to stay away from big rigs.
• Big rigs need a lot of space to stop. If a big rig is traveling at 55mph, it will take 300 feet to stop. Remember this when you are passing a big rig, and maintain your passing speed until you are a comfortable distance in front of the truck.
All of this information is meant to empower all drivers so that they may safely and responsibly share the road with commercial trucks. We believe an informed driver is a safe driver. Sadly, however, even the most skilled or aware driver can be involved in an accident. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we are prepared to help anyone who has been in a car accident involving a commercial truck.