FMCSA and truckers exchange views on medical rules, issues

| 8/20/2010

Representatives of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s medical programs office visited with drivers at a truck stop this week to discuss health issues and potential regulations on the horizon – and the regulatory staffers got plenty of feedback from about 20 drivers who attended.

Mike Joyce, OOIDA director of legislative affairs, and Doug Morris, OOIDA director of security operations, attended the informational meeting held at the TA truck stop in Jessup, MD.

Joyce told Terry Scruton of Land Line Now that FMCSA Chief Medical Officer Benisse Lester, M.D., and Mary Gunnels, Ph.D., who is the director of medical programs, discussed the general health of truck drivers.

“Every time we get an opportunity like this it’s a chance to educate people on the trucker’s lifestyle – their job and what they do,” Joyce said. “There were some words of advice and encouragement to drivers as far as eating healthy and exercising, but I think there was a certain amount of frustration also that truckers brought to the room – and rightfully so.”

Joyce said OOIDA told the FMCSA representatives of their concerns that efforts by the agency’s Medical Review Board to incorporate sleep apnea testing was driven by sleep lab and sleep product vendors “trying to make the almighty dollar off the backs of truckers … and they seemed to appreciate and understand that.”

Joyce also reminded the group of some fundamental realities of trucking and safety.

“We know that 75 percent of accidents are not caused by truckers; they’re caused by four-wheelers and other factors,” Joyce told Land Line Now. “There are underlying issues and concerns within the trucking industry that really need to be addressed. We again mentioned the time given away every week – uncompensated time – by truckers at loading docks.”

Joyce said one trucker at the meeting told the group that he spent four-and-a-half hours unloading that morning. The receiver made the driver wait two hours before telling him he could pay a lumper $180 to unload, or he could unload the cargo himself, Joyce said.

“We talked about the concerns of truck parking and the lack of parking facilities,” Joyce told the radio program. “And we brought up the issue of adding flexibility in hours of service so truckers can get out of the truck and do some walking and stretching.”

Joyce also said he believes DOT and FMCSA are trying to open doors and have conversations with key players. And OOIDA will continue to encourage dialogue with the agencies on medical and safety issues.

“We do believe that FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro is doing a good job of trying to redirect the agency’s focus and pay attention to the professional driver, and the safety, health and well-being of that driver,” Joyce said.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer

Land Line Now Senior Correspondent Terry Scruton contributed to this report.