Maybe it’s because of the ever increasing price of diesel or just the economy in general, but whenever times get tough trucking companies cut corners. Unfortunately, this means safety is compromised. Unsafe commercial trucks on the highways has always been a problem. Truck drivers trying to push the envelope of safety to get the load delivered quickly often results in tragedy. Truck drivers are required to keep accurate logbooks of their road activities. They are also rules governing how long they can be on the road without sleep. They are required to obtain medical certificates verifying their health doesn’t compromise their ability to operate large dangerous vehicles. The rules are often violated. Logbooks are forged. Some drivers turn to drugs to keep them alert. As a result of a horrible highway accident in New Orleans that killed 22 people, in 2003 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made eight important safety recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The recommendations were designed to keep medically unfit commercial truck drivers off the road. A study found that it’s so easy to obtain fake medical certificates to operate commercial trucks and buses that there is little incentive for operators to obtain legitimate papers. The tragedy in New Orleans involved a driver who was suffering from life threatening kidney and heart conditions but still held a valid license and medical certificate. Other collisions have been caused by truckers experiencing seizures, heart attacks or unconscious spells while driving. Forgery of medical certificates is so commonplace that no one even seems to care. The U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) disclosed that 563,000 commercial drivers with valid certificates were determined by the Veterans Affairs Department or the Social Security Administration to also be eligible for full disability benefits because of poor health. So far federal regulators are still sitting on implementing all of the recommended rules. In the meantime, the rest of us should be very concerned about that 18 wheeler next to us on the freeway.
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