The Other Side of the Argument
By Sandy Long
When I have discussed the issues brought forward by the Medical Review Board’s recommendations with some of my friends, I have found that they do not look at it like I do. BMI is the most understood of the issues it appears.
One friend who has sleep apnea and uses a C-Pap machine thinks everyone ought to be tested for sleep apnea and that neck measurement for BMI is a good way to find those with the condition. This even though she has a brother who is thin who has sleep apnea. Because it helped her, she thinks it will help everyone.
When I told her that she would then consider genetic testing for other diseases and conditions a good thing, she did not agree because she has MS and does not tell the DOT physicians about the neuropathy she has in her feet. “How can you support one without supporting the other?” I asked.
Another friend thinks that enforced weight loss programs, BMI testing or BMI based hiring and the rest are all good things. She stated that her tax dollars shouldn’t go to support someone that is on disability for obesity. When I asked her what all of those drivers are going to do when they are prohibited from driving, she replied that, “they could all get jobs in safety or dispatch.”
There are a few companies that might hire an ex driver for those positions, but if the thousands are put out of the seat by the recommendations that I think will be, there will never be enough office jobs for them; and where else is going to hire an over 50 year old driver with little or no college to do anything? Those drivers are going to end up on disability or if old enough, on social security. Who else is going to suffer because of this? Why the tax payer of course!
One friend who is a small fleet owner said, “I can hire anyone I choose to drive my trucks for whatever reason I choose to use or not hire them as the case may be!”
While he is correct to a degree, there are laws against discrimination against hiring due to disability or perceived disability if the applicant can do the job with reasonable accommodation made. If someone just looks at someone’s medical history or size and decides out of hand not to hire them, then they open themselves up for a lawsuit if that person is fully capable of doing the job safely and productively.
The bad thing about all of this is that it is couched in wording so it appears that safety of the motoring public is foremost in the minds of the review board and the FMCSA. Anyone who does not support their efforts immediately looks like they are all for the threatened increase in highway accidents and fatalities if we ‘sick’ drivers are not removed. This even with approximately 4800 deaths (roughly 800 of the deaths were truckers) last year in truck related crashes and another 23,000 non fatality accidents involving trucks down much less than even 5 years ago. It also does not take into consideration that most of the wrecks of both types are statistically attributed by law enforcement to other types of vehicles than commercial trucks causing the wrecks (approximately 75%).
A person at a trucking organization told me that there is reason behind combining medical conditions because many lead to other diseases such as diabetes leading to heart disease and could lead to heart attack. I do agree with that statement, but it does not hold true in all cases and should not be put into regulation because we all know supposedly healthy people who exercise regularly, eat right and see their doctors often that keel over with a heart attack. My father had his first heart attack at 38 years old and had no underlying condition to cause it. Another friend recently got infected with a virus that caused a heart attack.
The bottom line is there are in place adequate physical requirements under the FMCSA that cover commercial drivers. There are little statistical facts to back up strengthening them in any way or that the current standards do not work to keep drivers as healthy as possible considering the type of work we do. At this time there are few or no studies that link a commercial driver’s health to any accident statistics. However, that too may change soon. Another of the Medical Review Board’s recommendations concerns putting commercial driver’s physical and health information in a database along with incident reporting that can be accessed by health professionals and others. The HEPA Act be damned; but that is another story all together.
While I think that drivers should see their family doctors regularly and be treated for any conditions that might arise from our profession or as we age, I do not agree in any way that a driver should be penalized for developing medical conditions as long as he/she can continue to drive safely and productively. Instead of regulating these medical issues and penalizing the driver, they should be working on issues that truly do affect safety on our roads and making it so a driver can be honest during a DOT physical and get the medical assistance they might need.