Fitness report under fire

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in late July said more than half a million commercial vehicle drivers are currently receiving full disability benefits. According to those in the industry, however, this should not automatically disqualify anyone from being healthy enough to safely operate a vehicle. Just because some of these drivers are on Social Security or disability does

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in late July said more than half a million commercial vehicle drivers are currently receiving full disability benefits. According to those in the industry, however, this should not automatically disqualify anyone from being healthy enough to safely operate a vehicle.

“Just because some of these drivers are on Social Security or disability does not mean they are unfit to drive,” Clayton Boyce, vp of public affairs for the American Trucking Assns. (ATA), said. “While we support these reforms that have been proposed, we want to make clear that this is a much smaller issue than it is being made out to be.” Boyce added that there is plenty of misunderstanding in the mainstream media about the issue.

One of the major problems the trucking industry has with the report is that it relied mainly on statistics, only performing interviews with 15 of the 563,000 individuals the study speaks about. Boyce says the GAO findings are not a new problem; these are regulations the FMCSA has been told to enact over the past 10 years. In addition, he added, pulling out only 15 cases can't represent the entirety of the driving population.

The study said that 563,000 commercial drivers were determined by the Veterans Affairs Dept., Labor Dept. or Social Security Administration to be eligible for full disability benefits due to health issues, with more than 1,000 drivers suffering from vision, hearing or seizure disorders identified, reported the Associated Press.

A review of 7.3 million commercial driver violations compiled by the Dept. of Transportation in 2006 showed truck drivers violating federal medical rules in all 50 states, with the most frequent sanctions occurring in Texas, Maryland, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Alabama, New Jersey, Minnesota and Ohio.

Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Assn., told Land Line Magazine, the trade association's official magazine, that GAO overstated claims and focused on federal disability compared with the ability to drive a commercial vehicle.

“Just because someone is receiving full benefits doesn't necessarily mean they have a condition that would preclude them from having a CDL,” Craig said. “[If you have] a bad back or a loss of limb, you can actually get waivers in some cases and still drive a truck — and drive a truck quite well.”

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