The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending that commercial
drivers pass tougher physicals in order to get behind the wheel. The recommendation
concludes a report on a 1999 bus crash that killed 22 people in which the
driver was discovered to be in extremely poor health.
The NTSB report said "the failure of the medical certification process
to remove unfit drivers is a systematic, not an isolated problem." Among
the agency's conclusions:
- Individuals who are authorized to perform
medical examinations and certify interstate commercial drivers as fit to
drive may lack knowledge and
information critical to certification decisions. Consequently,
drivers with serious medical conditions may not be evaluated sufficiently
whether their condition poses a risk to highway safety.
- The regulations on the medical certification
of interstate commercial drivers do not reflect current medical knowledge
and information and can be
ambiguous regarding the conditions that may constitute disqualification.
- Not all individuals who are authorized
to perform medical examinations and certify commercial drivers as fit to
drive are made aware of information
sources that could assist them with certification decisions.
- Enforcement authorities cannot, in
most instances, determine the validity of a medical certificate during safety
inspections and routine stops
because of the absence of procedures or information sources
to validate the medical certificate itself.
- The inability to authenticate the information
on a medical certificate hampers enforcement authorities in their ability
to identify unfit drivers
and place them out of service.
The board recommended that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
develop a medical oversight initiative for interstate commercial drivers.
The agency said the program should make sure that those who are performing
the medical exams are qualified to do so and are educated about occupational
issues for drivers. It also recommended that states develop similar programs
for intrastate commercial drivers.
The board also recommended setting up a national database for prospective
employers to consult with to find out whether an applicant has previously
failed a drug test.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees the truck
and bus industry, plans to review the NTSB recommendations, spokesman Dave
To view the complete report visit www.ntsb.gov/Publictn/2001/HAR0101.htm.