Big-rig truck wrecks often cause crippling injuries  and even fatal accidents. Federal regulators attempt to do all they can to prevent them. That includes keeping truckers from behind the wheel when they have health conditions threatening their ability to drive safely. Unfortunately, as we reported in a prior article, some truckers skirt these health screenings and drive anyway, with disastrous results.

Federal law requires a trucker to obtain a medical certificate he’s physically qualified, based on a medical exam given at least every two years. But the regulations say a lot more about the health qualifications required to drive a 18-wheeler.

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Disqualifying Health Conditions For Truckers

The medical examiner must certify a driver does not have any physical or mental condition that might affect the ability to safely operate a big rig. Generally, truckers can’t drive if they have any of the following conditions, but they might be able to get an exception:

  • Any impairment to the arm, foot, leg, or even hand or finger interfering with operating an 18-wheeler.
  • A history or diagnosis of diabetes requiring insulin—but if controlled by just diet, exercise, or an oral non-insulin drug, it’s okay as long as the trucker is under proper medical supervision.
  • Any heart problem that could cause fainting, breathing problems, or heart failure, including heart attack or angina.
  • A history or diagnosis of a respiratory problem likely to interfere with safe semi-truck operation. This includes sleep apnea, a potentially lethal problem for semi drivers because it leaves them so sleep deprived they drive drowsy or—even worse—they may fall asleep at the wheel.
  • High blood pressure likely to interfere with safe truck operation.
  • A history or diagnosis of epilepsy or any other condition likely to cause losing consciousness or the ability to control a vehicle.
  • Vision of less than 20/40 with glasses or contacts.
  • Excessive hearing loss as defined by the regulations.
  • Using certain drugs including amphetamines, narcotics, or anything addictive.
  • A diagnosis of alcoholism. What’s frightening here is the regulation only covers a current diagnosis. It doesn’t protect against a past one, meaning it doesn’t protect against a relapse.

How the Exam Works

Federal regulations are very detailed about the contents of the medical exam. Here are highlights:

  • Examiner qualifications. The examiner must be listed on a national registry of certified medical examiners.
  • The exam. The exam itself is a thorough evaluation of every body system.
  • Appeal. If a trucker gets disqualified, he can appeal the medical exam procedures described by the regulations.

“I Got Sick” Should Not Excuse Wrecking Your Life

If you’re the victim of a tractor-trailer truck accident caused by a medically unqualified trucker who’s driving anyway, he and the trucking company likely owe you for ignoring your safety while they try to profit.

If the trucker’s health is a legitimate concern in your case, there is a way to try to uncover it. An experienced big-rig accident attorney will know how to get the trucker’s qualifications file to see if his medical exam is up-to-date—and get the trucker’s medical records to find out how accurate that exam is.

If you got hurt in a trucking accident and feel it might be caused by a medically unqualified trucker, send us an email right now so we can discuss how to protect your rights to maximum compensation and preserve your ability to find out all the facts before it’s too late.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.