Driver medical fitness, crash-avoidance technologies on NTSB's 2015 most wanted

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 1/13/2015

One federal agency believes strengthening truck-driver health screenings and equipping trucks with various types of crash-avoidance technologies are the formula for reducing crashes, injuries and deaths on the nation’s highways.

The National Transportation Safety Board issued the 2015 edition of its “most wanted” safety agenda on Tuesday, Jan. 13.

Under a recommendation for strengthening commercial trucking safety, NTSB applauds lawmakers and regulators for implementing “science-based hours of service rules” and for proposing an industry-wide mandate for electronic logging devices “that can help assure that drivers are adequately rested.”

“Other important rulemaking initiatives include requirements to screen drivers for obstructive sleep apnea, other potentially impairing medical conditions, and potentially impairing drugs,” NTSB stated.

Specific to drivers and the medical examiners who certify them to drive, NTSB wants to see a strengthened medical certification system that would require periodic testing and retesting for specific conditions and sleep disorders. This process would remain ongoing and engaged “between certification exams” and not limited to drivers’ regularly scheduled exams.

The agency would also like to prevent applicants from “doctor shopping” by seeking certification when they are known to have specific medical conditions.

It is legal and within a driver’s right to seek a second medical opinion on important matters, OOIDA noted in recent dialogues with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, as long as the driver is honest and provides documentation for medical conditions and history.

On the vehicle front, NTSB again wants to mandate the use of various technologies that provide a driver with warnings and/or take corrective measures for lane departures, collisions and rollovers.

The NTSB is not itself a regulatory agency. NTSB’s official capacity is to investigate serious crashes involving commercial vehicles, report to Congress and make safety recommendations to regulators and lawmakers. Many of the recommendations come directly out of the agency’s crash investigations.

Past “most wanted” lists from the agency have featured speed limiters, apnea monitoring, driver training, distraction, impairment, collision avoidance and electronic logs.

Copyright © OOIDA