Tractor Trailer and Eighteen Wheeler Safety

In our continuing examination of traffic deaths in Maryland and the District of Columbia we have learned that wrongful deaths are down nationwide

This is encouraging news, but for the families who have lost a loved one, it is little consolation. Much remains to be done and the number one priority of the National Transportation Safety Board is "preventing medically unqualified drivers from operating commercial vehicles."

This seemingly straight-forward task is the subject of much discussion in Washington governmental circles and nationwide in the trucking industry.The solution is a federal data-base of medical certifications  that
would allow for comprehensive, routine assurance that every trucker is operating under appropriate medical supervision.

Apparently, this is easier said than done. In their investigations of commercial trucking accidents the NTSB has found that "serious flaws exist in the medical certification process." These flaws lead to "increased highway fatalities and injuries for commercial vehicle drivers, their passengers and the motoring public."

The problems encountered incude recurrent situations where an eighteen wheeler operator has been denied medical certification by one examiner only to have another examiner approve them. There is no present system in place to track commercial truck operators who are denied certificates because of serious medical conditions.

Also, enforcement authorities have no means to determine the validity of medical certificates during routine safety stops and inspections.

Thus. tractor-trailers are operated with some regularity by drivers who have been denied certification by one doctor and who then seek out another more lenient doctor who passes them.

The NTSB has some sensible solutions to these problems. Establish a comprehensive national oversight program to make sure all examiners are applying the same standards and to ensure that drivers who are denied are noted.
They also want to track "all" medical certification applications so oversight of "invalid" certificates is possible.

Finally, the NTSB wants a reporting system for significant medical conditions noted during examination so these conditions and their progression can be followed.