The Possible End of Your Career
By Sandy Long
The FMCSA Medical Review Board (MRB) has made recommendations that if adopted by the FMCSA will put thousands of truckers out of work. This will affect ALL commercial drivers that require DOT physicals, union, non-union, student, local, regional, otr, if not immediately, then as the driver gets older.
The MRB was instituted as an advisory board to the FMCSA concerning driver health and how it relates to safety in 2006. In the minutes from the initial meetings it is clear that their mission was three fold; 1. To set up a national database linking a driver’s DOT physical to their license. 2. To revisit the DOT regulations concerning driver’s physicals. 3. To certify medical professionals that give DOT physicals.
One of the first medical conditions that the MRB addressed was BMI/Sleep apnea. This recommendation was pushed through even though there are no good studies linking BMI or sleep apnea to commercial driver’s or wrecks involving CMV’s.
From Landline Magazine: “At the Jan. 28 meeting, Dr. Barbara Phillips, a former chairman of the drug company-funded National Sleep Foundation, ushered the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board through the recommendation process in only a few minutes. Then she made a landmark claim.
“The data do indicate the more you weigh, the more likely you are to crash,” she said, slowing to enunciate each word.
Phillips, who directs a sleep medicine program at the University of Kentucky Good Samaritan Hospital in Lexington, KY, didn’t go on to list the National Sleep Foundation’s millions of dollars in annual contributions from pharmaceutical companies and at least one C-PAP manufacturer.”
In subsequent meetings medical conditions were discussed ranging from kidney problems to psychiatric conditions and how they relate to truckers. Even though there are few studies that link any condition to commercial drivers and accidents involving them, the MRB has consistently ignored the fact that there are no studies supporting their findings and recommended that drivers with those conditions be tested if not denied the right to drive.
The most recent recommendations the MRB has come up with is a graduated physical system that is going to affect thousands of good, safe drivers. The graduated system is this: If a driver has 1 condition, he/she can get a 2 year physical; 2 conditions, a 1 year physical; 3 conditions, a 6 month physical; 4 or more conditions the driver is disqualified from driving. These disqualifying conditions might be arthritis, joint replacement, high blood pressure, diabetes type 2, and a history of psychiatric treatment for problems of simple depression. It will not matter if any of these conditions are under treatment or not.
While the MRB cannot set regulations, which is left up to the FMCSA, their recommendations have teeth from the start. Their recommendations about BMI and sleep studies have started being used by occupational medical clinics during DOT physicals and by companies to not hire drivers above certain BMI ratings. One company clearly states on their website that if one has a BMI above a certain point, do not apply. This even before the regulations have been set by the FMCSA.
Many of the conditions listed so far in the recommendations affect older drivers; things such as arthritis, high blood pressure etc. and are exasperated by the driver’s lifestyle and career choice. While initially, the recommendations, if adopted by the FMCSA, will affect in majority the older drivers; as younger drivers age they too will fall to the medical conditions culling of drivers just due to their career choice.
The drivers that will be affected by these recommendations are some of the safest on the roads; older, more mature drivers with good safety records. Of course, a driver’s safety records or work history do not enter into the blanket judgment of the MRB based strictly on faulty science and studies that do not reflect accurately any correlation between a driver’s health and safety.
The MRB supposedly has the public’s safety in mind in making these recommendations, but they forget a couple of things. 1. Truck drivers do not give up their rights under the constitution when they get a commercial driver’s license. 2. There are federal laws in place to protect Americans against discrimination due to medical disabilities or even ‘perceived’ medical disabilities.
While a driver may not be considered disabled before falling victim to these recommendations, if he/she cannot work due to their medical conditions, this will put them on the rolls of the disabled and allows them to sue even the federal government under EEOC and Americans with Disabilities Act laws. For that matter, according those laws, a person cannot be denied employment if they are capable of doing the job with reasonable accommodations if they have medical conditions.
It has been said for years that truckers would never come together over an issue due to the diversity of the industry, while this has been true for years; the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board has now given truckers an issue that will affect every trucker in the country at some point in their careers. It is time for drivers to stand up and say enough is enough; if they do not, they may no longer be truckers due to overwhelming, unsubstantiated regulations.