The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended more stringent medical oversight of commercial drivers, including closing the loophole of “doctor shopping,” which allows disqualified drivers to find a doctor who will sign off on medical forms.
“In the absence of a mechanism to track all medical certification examinations, a commercial driver with a serious medical condition who is denied a medical certificate by one examiner may be able to obtain a medical certificate from another examiner, thus subverting the purpose of the medical certification process,” the NTSB report noted. “The failure of the medical certification process to remove unfit drivers is a systemic, not an isolated, problem.”
NTSB's findings were part of a report on the causes of a May 9, 1999, bus crash outside of New Orleans that killed 22 passengers and seriously injured 15 others. The Board's investigation established that the 46-year-old driver, who had a current CDL and medical certificate, suffered from several life-threatening medical conditions of the kidneys and heart that caused him to lose consciousness while driving.
Make sure that individuals performing medical examinations for drivers understand the occupational issues involved.
Establish a tracking mechanism that ensures prior applications by an individual for medical certification are recorded and reviewed.
Update medical certification regulations to permit trained examiners to clearly determine whether drivers with common medical conditions should be issued medical certificates.
Establish a way for enforcement authorities to identify invalid medical certification during safety inspections and routine stops.