Evidence & Investigation
Spoliation of Evidence
Investigative Technique – Maintenance Records
Investigative Technique – Driver’s Logs
Investigative Technique – Trucker’s Medical Background
Investigative Technique – Employer Drug Screening
Investigative Technique – DOT Physical Results
Investigating Techniques – Truck Drivers Logs
Houston Personal Injury Lawyers » Investigating Techniques – Truck Drivers Logs
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As part of a Commercial Vehicle Accident Investigation, Driver’s Logs can be Crucial in Proving Negligence
Just as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Department of Transportation require that trucking companies compile and retain employee records on their drivers and maintenance records on their fleets, the drivers of the commercial trucks must maintain certain records as well.
Per the FMCSA and the DOT, commercial truck drivers must maintain logs for each trucking run they make. The truck drivers logs must keep track of the driver’s hours of service, the driver’s duty status, the mechanical check list for the truck the driver performs, notations of mechanical issues and any repairs done on the truck, and other job related data. The failure to maintain these records properly often has a direct correlation to the accidents a commercial truck driver will cause.
The truck driver’s logs are not only a means for the trucking companies and the government to monitor driver safety. The truck driver’s logs can provide powerful insight into the events surrounding an accident and can assist with accident reconstruction. The commercial trucking companies and their drivers are only required to keep this data for a certain period of time, so after you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, time can work against your case. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood that the crucial data needed for your case will be deleted or lost. This is why it is important that after you have been in an accident with a commercial truck, you have someone working for you that knows how to secure possible evidence contained in the truck driver’s logs. It is vital to preserve it before that evidence is lost or destroyed. Our lawyers at Grossman Law Offices have over twenty years litigating commercial truck accident claims and we can work for you.
What the Driver’s Logs Contain
Commercial truck drivers are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation to maintain detailed logs of their activities while they are on the road. The logs should contain data related to the trucker and data related to the vehicle the trucker is driving. Each 24 hour-period the commercial truck driver is supposed to document the following information in their logs:
The complete name of the location where their duty status has changed. This needs to include the complete city/town and state information.
The total time the driver spent on duty driving, the time spent on duty but not driving, and the time he spent asleep in truck’s back berth if applicable.
The total number of miles the driver has driven in the last 24 hour period.
The name of the trucking company and the tractor trailer information.
The names of any co-drivers assisting in the last 24 hour period.
Once the driver has completed the log they are to make a copy and forward the original to the trucking company. The driver is required to keep 7 consecutive days of driver’s logs on them at all times. The trucking company is required to keep these logs on file for at least 6 months. The driver’s logs are important because they are used to track the driver’s time on the road and to make sure the driver is getting adequate rest between driving shifts. By law, a truck driver can only drive a certain number of hours before they are required to take rest. This is done to prevent driver fatigue and ensure that the truck driver is alert when he or she is driving the tractor trailer. Driver fatigue is one of the leading causes of accidents involving tractor-trailers, so adhering to the hours limitation is of utmost importance.
Limitation of Driving Hours
In an effort to prevent driver fatigue and decrease the likelihood of accidents, there are federal and state laws in place that limit the number of consecutive hours a truck driver may drive in a 24 hour period. These laws are referred to as hours of service regulations. Currently the hours of service regulations state that a driver can drive up to 11 consecutive hours within a 14 hour time period after they have had 10 consecutive hours off duty. What this boils down to is that a driver can have only 14 hours on duty within a 24-hour time period.
The hours of service regulations do not just apply per 24-hour time period. There are hours of service regulations related to consecutive days on duty as well. Per the hours of service regulations a truck driver cannot drive at all when the driver has been on duty for 60 hours in a consecutive 7 day period if the trucking company is not open for business every day of the week. Additionally, a driver cannot drive if they have been on duty for 70 hours in a consecutive 8 day period if the trucking company is open for business every day of the week. The time period resets when the driver has been off duty for 34 consecutive hours.
It is also important to remember that “on duty” does not mean just the time the driver is actually driving. The hours of service regulations factors in the time the driver spends working or beings read to start working. This covers the time when the driver is waiting on dispatch instructions, when the truck is being inspected for mechanical and maintenance issues, when the truck’s cargo is being loaded or unloaded – even if the driver themselves is not doing the loading or unloading – and any other time the driver spends in the truck where he or she is not sleeping. The on duty time is important to understand because it comes into play often, especially when a driver is working with a co-driver.
Usually a driver works with a co-driver so the trip can continue forward even during break times. One driver will driver while the other sleeps in the berth and vice versa to cut down on time in transit for their cargo. This is done so both drivers are able to get ample rest but not jeopardize their ability to get the cargo to its destination on time. However, when the drivers do not follow the sleeping schedule the hours on duty are impacted and could violate the hours of service regulations. As mentioned above “on duty” time includes any time the driver is in the truck but is not sleeping. So for example if the co-driver is not sleeping in the back berth but is sitting up front with the driver and not sleeping, he or she is technically on duty and this time applies toward their hours of service even though they are not driving. This is an issue because when it is their time to drive again they may not be rested enough to fight off driver fatigue.
Falsified Drivers Logs and Accidents
The hours of service regulations were put in place to help ensure that truck drivers take adequate rest and are able to be alert when driving the tractor-trailers we see on the highways every day. One of the most common causes of accidents between tractor-trailers and other motorists on the road is driver fatigue. When drivers are tired from spending too many hours driving they are more likely to make costly and dangerous mistakes. A fatigued driver is more likely to make errors when changing lanes, failing to check their blind spots, driving too closely behind another vehicle or by swerving in and out of traffic. To compound this issue some drivers even resort to pills and other stimulants to stay awake and fight their body’s natural impulse to want rest. These stimulants usually do more harm than good and the truck driver is further impaired from being able to fully concentrate on the road, on the other drivers, and making sound decisions as they maneuver the tractor-trailer truck through highway traffic.
Truck drivers attempt to drive too many hours for a variety of reasons. Obviously there is the financial incentive that comes with working more hours. Additionally they may have pressure from the trucking company to work beyond the scope of the hours of service regulations as well. The trucking companies may push their drivers to work beyond the legal limits to get more loads delivered in less time. Even though this is illegal and puts other drivers risk, it still happens. But regardless of the reason a driver is tempted or pressured to drive more hours than the hours of service regulations allow, doing so is still illegal and often results in accidents.
While a driver is illegally working beyond the hours of service regulations they are also probably falsifying their drivers’ logs as well. The drivers falsify their logs to cover up the fact they have been driving beyond the hours of service regulations. This can have fatal consequences and the falsified logs are of little use after an accident. For example, in 2009 a tractor trailer driver caused a multiple-car crash during rush hour traffic that resulted in a fatality of one motorist and the serious injury of another. In the investigation that followed it was discovered that the driver falsified his drivers’ logs at least 15 times over the two month period leading up to the accident. He did so to cover up the fact he had been driving beyond the hours of service. He was charged criminally for the falsified records and was fined and sentenced to 18 months in prison. This is only one example of many involving truck drivers and accidents.
Even if the driver does not admit to falsifying the drivers logs there are still ways of determining that this has happened. Our lawyers know how to piece together what has happened in an accident with a tractor trailer truck, even when the records have been falsified. For example, if you are rear ended by a tractor trailer truck and the review of the logs the driver supplies indicates the brakes had been checked by the driver and were in working mechanical order, we know to compare those logs with the logs the maintenance logs that the company is required to maintain on its vehicle. If the driver’s assessment of the brakes does not match up with the maintenance records, the falsification is evident and is directly linked to the accident.
There are other ways our lawyers can discover when the driver has falsified the logs. We know how to gather the driver’s gas and lodging receipts, bills of lading, weigh station information and even the driver’s cell phone records. Separately, these pieces of information may not demonstrate much, but when considered together they can paint an accurate picture of the events surrounding your accident with the tractor trailer. These are just a few of the things we can examine when working on your case. If this has happened to you, you need an experienced lawyer on your side with the know-how and experience with using the right investigative techniques to help prove the truck driver’s and trucking company’s liability for your injuries.
In many modern tractor trailer trucks the trucking companies can install electronic data recorders that monitor and record the truck’s systems and information. The recorders gather information on the truck’s speed, braking and any actions taken by the driver. These recorders are similar to what we know as black boxes on an airplane. Just like in a plane crash one of the first things investigators look for is the black box, our lawyers would do the same for a tractor trailer truck’s data recorder. Just as our lawyers can take the paper receipts and documents from the truck driver’s trip and compare them with the driver’s logs that we submitted, the electronic data can be compared with it as well. The comparison can reveal if the driver’s records are falsified and if the driver’s work beyond the hours of service regulations led caused the accident that injured you.
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Falsified Driver Records Requires Extensive Investigation
Falsified driver logs can pose a huge problem when trying to establish the evidence you need to prove the driver’s liability for the accident that left you injured and in pain. Knowing what information to gather to compare against these records can he hard to understand and even hard to get a hold of. This is why trying to do this alone is inadvisable. The attorneys at Grossman Law Offices have years of experience with litigating commercial truck accident claims and we know how to use investigative techniques to discover and preserve the evidence necessary for your case to be successful. Call us at 1-855-392-0000. Let us take on the trucking company and their negligent driver so you can focus on the most important thing – getting better.
Checking the Truck Driver’s Medical Background
Houston Personal Injury Lawyers » Checking the Truck Driver’s Medical Background
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Obtaining the Defendant Truck Driver’s Prior Medical Records May Help Bolster Your Claim
Houston Texas 18 wheeler accident lawyer
One investigative technique that too few attorneys employ is that of conducting research into the truck driver’s background. Such probative research is required in most truck accident cases as a way of countering some of the available defenses.
For example, if a truck driver falls asleep at the wheel and kills a person, the defense attorneys who represent the trucking company will attempt to mitigate their losses by claiming that the truck driver was required to follow regulations in regard to hours of service, and that such a violation, or any other contributing factor that caused him to fall asleep, was beyond the control of the company.
Such a defense can be very effective if your attorney does not know how to counter it. In many of the cases that our attorneys have litigated at Grossman Law Offices, these defenses were overcome by showing that the truck driver did not simply “fall asleep,” but other health issues arose instead which caused him to lose consciousness. By showing that the truck driver had a history of health problems that the parent company was, indeed, aware of, you will be able to cast doubt on the defendant’s assertions that they had no way of predicting such an outcome.
There are myriad ways in which a truck driver can cause an accident; most of the time they make traffic-related mistakes, but other times the cause is health-related. If you sustained an injury in an accident caused by a truck driver who had a health issue, and that issue led directly to the accident taking place, you need to know so that you can have the strongest possible case in order to have the best chance of winning.
Health Issues that Can Affect Truck Drivers
Truck drivers are susceptible to the same kinds of maladies as anyone else. They are under a great deal of stress, so high blood pressure is common. Obesity from a lack of movement is another issue; according to a 2007 study conducted by the Journal of the American Diabetic Association, 86 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million truck drivers were classified as overweight or obese. Since truck drivers are rarely in the same place for more than a day or two, hitting the gym is typically not an option. Usually, the most exercise a truck driver will get in any given day is pushing his or her gas pedal.
Another problem, obviously, is the stress these professionals encounter because they are trying to meet extremely taxing deadlines set by their employers. Truck drivers do not exactly have a varied range of eating options while they are on the road; since they are under such pressing time constraints, they often have to rely on fast food. When you combine the stress associated with their job with their often unhealthy eating practices, and then you add the fact that smoking is prevalent among truck drivers, you can see how heart issues can be a major problem affecting members of the profession.
Sleep apnea is another problem that is common among truck drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that about one in four truckers has the condition, which can lead to daytime sleepiness and lack of concentration. Many truck drivers spend incredible numbers of hours behind the wheel of their vehicles, ignoring federal mandates that require them to take rest breaks on a periodic basis. They press on and remain on the road because they are either trying to meet an often realistic employer-imposed deadline, or trying to make a potentially lucrative mileage bonus.
These issues can strike suddenly in the form of a heart attack or a sudden loss of consciousness that can result in a catastrophic accident.
Why Obtaining Information on the Truck Driver’s Health Issues is so Important
Determining the health issue that may have affected the truck driver involved in your accident is not what is really germane to your case; proving that the trucking company was aware of that problem is highly important. If the driver who caused your accident had a heart attack behind the wheel and had a history of heart issues, that is a very strong indicator the trucking company knew of those issues. And if you can prove the trucking company’s knowledge of the problem, that can substantially increase the strength of your case.
If you are pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in order to obtain compensation for the injury you have sustained in your trucking accident, you will first have to show the court unassailable evidence that the truck driver was to blame. But you will not just be pursuing compensation from that driver; you will also pursue restitution from the company that hired the driver. And in order to build a solid case against the company, you will have to show its negligence.
If you can prove the trucking company was aware of the truck driver’s health problems and did nothing to take that driver off of the road to treat those problems, then you can prove that company’s negligence. However, you will need the help of a skilled attorney in order to do so.
At Grossman Law Offices, our lawyers have litigated truck accident cases for the past two decades. During that time we have helped thousands of our clients secure equitable restitution for their suffering. In nearly every truck accident case that we accept, we immediately launch an investigation. In addition to investigatory tasks at the crash site, such as taking physical measurements, conducting forensic tests and interviewing witnesses, we can also take a detailed look into any of the truck driver’s health problems that may have either been an underlying cause of the accident or its direct cause. We can obtain the medical records needed in order to prove the truck driver’s health issues led directly to the accident and the resulting injury you sustained.
The Responsibilities of a Trucking Company
Just as a trucking company has a responsibility to other drivers sharing the road with their rigs to make sure those rigs are in proper working order, they also have the responsibility to not allow drivers with health risks to remain behind the wheel. A driver who is at risk of suffering a health problem that could directly lead to an accident is just as dangerous as defective brakes or worn tires. When a trucking company fails to perform its due diligence to ensure that its drivers are not a danger to themselves and the motorists around them, that company can be targeted with legal action for its negligence.
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Again, however, you will need hard evidence to prove that negligence, and it takes an experienced attorney to be able to uncover that evidence. At Grossman Law Offices, our attorneys have two decades of experience litigating truck accident cases. We have the knowledge and skill you will need in order to prove the negligence of a trucking company and obtain fair compensation. To learn more or to receive a confidential and free consultation, please call Grossman Law Offices at 1-855-392-0000 (toll free).
Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Truckers
Houston Personal Injury Lawyers » Pre-Employment Drug Screening for Truckers
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Negligent Entrustment of a Trucking Company and The Failure to Properly Screen Truck Drivers
There are almost three million tractor trailers that travel the nation’s highways in a given year and with so many on the road, accidents with other motorists are a common occurrence. Nearly 113,000 tractor trailer accidents occurred in 2010 and almost 3500 of those resulted in fatalities. Many of these accidents would be prevented if the trucking companies follow the federal requirements regarding pre-employment background and drug screening.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that trucking companies perform pre-employment background checks for every driver they hire. Trucking companies must investigate a potential driver’s employment history and driving record, conduct screenings for drugs and alcohol, and check for any drug or alcohol related violations in the truck driver’s background. The failure to perform pre-employment background checks leads to accidents and injuries that might otherwise be preventable.
If you have been injured in a tractor trailer accident it may be difficult for you to obtain the trucking company’s records to determine whether they followed the federal law requiring pre-employment background checks on their driver. Trucking companies have been known to hide or destroy these records to prevent injured plaintiffs from demonstrating the trucking company’s failure to comply with the federal requirements. Our attorneys at the Grossman Law Offices know how to investigate the trucking company and its drivers. We know what reports need to be produced to verify whether the required pre-employment screening was conducted by the trucking company and if its negligence in failing to do so was a factor in your injuries.
An Ounce of Prevention
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Though an old and oft used term, this statement is still nonetheless true. In this case the “ounce of prevention” is the trucking company’s duty to perform pre-employment background and drug screening, and the “pound of cure” is compensating a motorist that has been injured as the result of an accident with a tractor trailer driver who had no business on the roads. The best prevention is taking the necessary steps to reduce the occurrence of an accident in the first place.
In an effort to reduce the number of accidents involving motorists and tractor trailers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted an extensive driver screening program for the trucking industry to follow in order to keep unsafe tractor trailer drivers off the road. However, the program can only be effective if those responsible for hiring tractor trailer drivers – the trucking companies—actually use it. The FMCSA driver pre-employment screening program focuses on two key areas. First the trucking company must obtain an employment and driving history for the driver for the previous three years. Second, the trucking company must obtain the driver’s drug and alcohol violation history for the previous three years as well as conduct its own drug screening on the driver. Each of the steps outlined in the FMCSA’s pre-employment screening program is important in keeping dangerous and unqualified drivers off the road and minimizing the number of preventable accidents that occur each year.
Pre-Employment Driving History
As part of the FMCSA’s pre-employment driver screening program trucking companies are required to obtain a driver’s employment and driving history for the previous three years. This is an important factor in preventing accidents because many times a driver’s employment or driving history reveals their record for drug use, carelessness or reckless driving.
When a driver applies for employment with a trucking company, part of the due diligence the trucking company must perform involves obtaining the driver’s license and driving history. The trucking company should review any driving violations, accidents, and tickets received by the truck driver in this time period. The FMCSA has made it easier than ever for trucking companies to obtain this information. The agency is making data available on driver safety and post-crash violations, in addition to the roadside inspection and crash records that employers already can see using this system. The Internet-based pre-employment screening program gives the trucking companies five years of an applicant’s crash history and three years of his inspection history. The data is drawn from the Motor Carrier Management Information System and includes the same information that is used by agency staff and state police for enforcement. There is simply no excuse for a trucking company’s failure to conduct this basic check and if you are injured by their negligence in doing so, the lawyers at the Grossman Law Offices are here to help.
Pre-Employment Substance Abuse History
n addition to a trailer truck driver’s driving history, the trucking companies have a legal duty to obtain reports from the driver’s previous employers regarding any drug or alcohol violations. Trucking companies must request information related to substance abuse history from prior employers. Specifically, a prospective employer must verify whether an applicant has failed a drug or alcohol test from all employers for the three years prior to the date of hire. The trucking company must request the results of alcohol tests with a result of 0.04 or higher alcohol concentration, verified positive drug tests, and refusals by the truck driver to be tested, and other violations of DOT agency drug and alcohol testing regulations. Additionally the trucking company should not have the driver on the road until this information has been received and verified.
If a tractor trailer driver has a history of drug and alcohol abuse or DOT violations, these factors serve as a warning to potential employers about the risk a driver like this brings to the highway. Logically, once made aware of this risk the trucking company can reduce the risk of an accident involving this driver by simply not hiring them. Obtaining the driver’s employment and driving history prior to employment is not only good business sense for the trucking company, it is also required by law.
If you have been injured in a tractor trailer accident one of the first things that needs to be secured for your case are the results of the pre-employment driving history and employment check conducted by the trucking company. Trucking companies are not always forth coming with these documents because by not complying with the federal requirements their negligence can be a major factor that works in your favor. The trucking company will throw many hurdles in your way to prevent you from obtaining these documents, or even flat out refuse to provide them to you. Our lawyers at the Grossman Law Offices have extensive experience dealing with trucking companies and we know how to obtain these records and we know how to argue that the records demonstrate negligence on the part of the trucking company.
Pre-Employment Drug and Alcohol Screening
Under federal law, trucking companies must have the driver complete a pre-employment screen for alcohol and drugs before a driver is allowed to operate a tractor trailer on the highways. The drug screen must be negative and the alcohol test must come back at a consummation level less than .04%. If the driver does not pass the drug and alcohol screens, the trucking company should not allow the driver to perform truck driving duties. In addition to performing the drug and alcohol screenings mentioned above, the trucking companies must also provide their truck drivers with educational materials explaining its policies and procedures about alcohol and controlled substances. While some policies are pretty obvious such as no alcohol or drugs may be used while on duty, some may not be as obvious and should be carefully outlined in the trucking company’s policies and procedures. For example, drivers need to understand which substances prescribed by a doctor are allowed for use on duty and which are not.
If you have been injured in an accident with a tractor trailer and the driver was found to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs it is extremely important that any pre-employment drug and alcohol screen results are obtained. Not only will this demonstrate whether the trucking company complied with federal law by conducting the tests in the first place, but the results can also demonstrate the trucking company’s knowledge of potential drug or alcohol abuse by its employee. Additionally the trucking company’s policies concerning drug and alcohol use should be obtained as well. Having these documents will allow your attorney to lay the foundation of your claim surrounding the trucking company’s negligence in complying with the federal trucking laws.
The Pre-Employment Policies Protect The Public
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation put laws in place to govern the commercial trucking industry for the safety of the public. These laws and regulations work to prevent accidents and keep us safe from reckless and negligent tractor trailer drivers and the trucking companies that employ them. Trucking companies have a legal duty to conduct the pre-employment screenings required by the FMCSA and their failures to do so often results in needless preventable accidents and injuries to motorists.
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Even when they have clearly violated the federal laws that govern their industry trucking companies will still aggressively defend any claims against them when one of their drivers injures a motorist. They have teams of attorneys looking for any way to minimize their liability and deny you access to the records that help to prove their negligence in failing to conduct the required pre-employment tests on their drivers. You need attorneys on your side that know how to compel the trucking companies and their lawyers to produce this information to help with your claim. Getting these documents as soon as possible after your injury increases the likelihood of their availability for trial. If you have been injured, please call Grossman Law Offices today at 1-855-392-0000.
Investigating Technique – DOT Physical Results
Houston Personal Injury Lawyers » Investigating Technique – DOT Physical Results
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Obtaining the Truck Driver’s Medical Certification & DOT Physical Results Following a Commercial Vehicle Accident
Commercial trucking companies have a duty to employ drivers that are drug free and physically able to drive the massive tractor trailer trucks that share our roads and highways. To ensure that the drivers are physically able to perform their job duties as a commercial truck driver, the Department of Transportation requires that drivers take a physical and obtain the proper Medical Certificate signed by a medical examiner that certifies their physical health and ability to drive commercial vehicles. The Medical Certificate is valid for two years.
The medical examiners are not required to provide the medical exam information to the driver’s employer, but they are required to supply the Medical Certificate to the employer if the driver passes the exam. Therefore, it is logical step for the commercial trucking company to have medical certificates on file for each of its drivers as the medical certificate is something each driver must have passed to be permitted to drive commercial trucks in the first place. The trucking company has a duty to ensure that the drivers in its employ meet the state and federal requirements for commercial truck drivers, and this includes the physical ability of the driver.
If you are in an accident with a tractor trailer it is important that the Department of Transportation physical results on the driver are obtained as soon as possible. The trucking company should have the medical certificate on file, but the medical examiners are not required to provide them with all the information from the exam. However, the trucking company has a right to this medical information and should have it. The absence of the medical certificate can indicate that the driver was not physically able to be driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the accident. This can go a long way in demonstrating the trucking company’s liability in the accident by having someone that has not been medically authorized driving their commercial truck.
Getting the medical records necessary to prove that the driver had a condition that impaired their ability to drive or was not medically fit to driving can be difficult to obtain. There are issues with the trucking company’s willingness to provide these documents, the driver’s rights in the medical records, and the general red tape you will encounter trying to get these records. This is why you need attorneys like ours at Grossman Law Offices to help you with your claim. Our attorneys have significant experience dealing with commercial truck accidents and the extensive measures it can take to obtain the medical documents necessary to prove the driver’s and the trucking company’s liability in your case.
The Driver’s Duty
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation, commercial truck drivers have many different responsibilities depending upon the type of driving they do. Some drivers are short relay drivers and they return to their home base each at the end of each day. Some drivers work as long relay drivers and they will drive for 9 to 11 hours and then have a 10 hour off duty period before returning to home base. And then there are team drivers that will work in pairs and drive cross country. These drivers will take turns between driving and resting to make sure neither exceeds the hours of service regulations and have proper rest before driving again. The type of driving a commercial truck driver performs can directly impact any underlying health conditions they may have just by virtue of some of their job duties.
Drivers may have to deal with abrupt schedule changes, rotating schedules, long hours, extended time away from home and family, tight schedules, irregular patterns for eating and sleeping, noise, lifting cargo, and even temperature extremes. There may be other duties in addition to the driving that a driver is responsible and needs to be fit to perform. Some of these responsibilities include coupling and uncoupling trailer from the tractor hitch, sitting for long periods of time without being able to stretch, inspecting the operating condition of the truck, and assisting with the unloading of cargo. These tasks require a certain level of physical agility, the ability to bend and stoop as necessary and climbing the truck’s ladder to inspect cargo. The driver must also be perceptive enough to monitor the road and complex driving situations. The driver needs to be able to have the judgment skills to make quick decisions, the ability to maintain control of the tractor trailer truck and its contents, and to navigate through traffic and areas with which the driver may be unfamiliar.
All of these duties and situations are the kind of factors that can trigger or aggravate a driver’s underlying health condition and this is why it is so important for them to have the medical certificate clearing them to drive commercial trucks. The driver has a duty to have his or her medical exam performed by a medical examiner authorized by the Department of Transportation and obtain the medical certificate indicating his or her physical fitness for driving commercial vehicles. Until the medical certification is obtained the driver should not be allowed to drive commercial vehicles.
What is Physically Fit?
To meet the Department of Transportation standards and to pass the medical exam and receive the medical certificate making a driver eligible to be a commercial truck driver certain physical requirements must be met. Most of the requirements are pretty common and are the type of physical qualifications one would think of when dealing with a commercial truck driver. However, some of the requirements are not as intuitive so that’s why these regulations are helpful to have in place and important for the commercial truck drivers and the commercial trucking companies to abide by.
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The Department of Transportation medical exam requirements state that a driver is considered physically fit if they have not lost a foot, hand, leg, or arm or they have been granted a waiver to this requirement by receiving the loss of limb waiver certificate. The person must not have any impairment of their hand or finger that interferes with the ability to perform normal tasks associated with driving a commercial truck. The driver must not have been diagnosed with diabetes that requires the use of insulin for control. The driver must not have been diagnosed with or have a medical history of heart disease or suffered from cardiac failure. The driver must not have any history or diagnosis of respiratory failure or dysfunction, or diagnosis of high blood pressure that is likely to interfere with their ability to function as a commercial driver. The driver must have any medical history or diagnosis of rheumatic, orthopedic, muscular, vascular, neuromuscular disease or arthritis that would interfere with the ability to operate the commercial truck. The driver must not suffer from epilepsy or other condition that causes seizures, or have any mental, nervous, or functional disease that is likely to interfere with the ability to operate the commercial vehicle. Finally, the driver must meet the vision and hearing qualifications as well. If the driver does not pass each aspect of the physical exam they will not be issued the medical certificate allowing them to drive. Some of the medical requirements have a waiver provision such as the loss of limb certificate mentioned above. In these instances if the driver can demonstrate their ability to operate the commercial truck in a sound and careful manner despite their handicap or medical issue a waiver for that portion of the medical certificate can be obtained.
However, there are certain medical conditions that can disqualify a driver from driving at all. According to the regulations, drivers that have suffered hearing loss or vision loss can be disqualified. Additionally, drivers who suffer from epilepsy or have insulin dependent diabetes are disqualified from commercial truck driving as well. If a trucking company hires a driver who does not have a medical certificate, a driver that has not obtained the necessary waiver for their medical condition, or a driver who has one of the conditions that can disqualify a driver from driving commercial trucks, the trucking company’s liability for an accident that involves that driver can be demonstrated through this failure on their part.
The DOT Physical Results Can Help Your Claim
If you have been in an accident with a commercial truck driver, it is important that certain medical records of the truck driver be obtained as soon as possible. When a commercial truck driver has been in an accident with a motorist, it is standard procedure that the driver be given medical tests shortly after the accident has occurred. These medical tests will include drug and alcohol testing which must be performed within 8 hours after the accident. These tests are helpful in two ways. First, the tests can determine if the driver was under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Second, the tests can also detect other medications as well. The presence of other medications in the driver’s urine or blood stream can point to medical conditions that are either disallowed for commercial drivers under the Department of Transportation regulations or point to a medical condition that may have contributed to the accident.
Additionally, obtaining the proof of the driver’s medical certification is key as well. According to the FMCSA Roadside Inspections Driver Violations Database, over the past five years there were almost 500,000 citations issued to drivers who could not provide proof that they were medically qualified to be driving commercial trucks. This statistic is important because it sheds some light on the trucking company’s liability as well. If the driver is unable to provide proof of their medical qualifications to the FMCSA inspectors, odds are they are unable to provide those to the trucking companies as well. Trucking companies should not knowingly allow medically unqualified drivers operate their commercial vehicles, and by doing so they are liable for the accidents these medically unqualified drivers may cause.
The lawyers at Grossman Law Offices know how to get the medical documents needed to demonstrate the trucking company’s liability for the actions of their negligent driver that injured you. The trucking companies have certain duties assigned to them by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation, and one of those duties is to hire medically qualified drivers. When they fail to do this and when a driver’s medical condition causes or contributes to an accident, they must be held accountable. Making sure this happens can be a difficult task for you on your own. Bringing in our attorneys as soon as possible after your accident will enable us to act quickly and increase the chances that we can obtain all of the medical and physical testing results before they are destroyed or become unavailable. The trucking companies have lawyers on their side fighting for their rights, you should have an experienced group of attorneys on your side as well. Call us today at 1-855-392-0000.