A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this week said more than half a million commercial vehicle drivers are currently receiving full disability benefits. However, according to those in the trucking industry, 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), told FleetOwner.
“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 said, adding 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.
According to Boyce, the GAO findings are not a new problem—these are regulations the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has been told to do the past 10 years. In addition, pulling out only 15 cases can’t represent the entirety of the driving population, he added.
“This is not a scientific study—it can’t represent the 500,000 as a whole,” Boyce said. “They found a few horror stories, but they are just anecdotes. It’s not a low priority—it’s overdue—so we should move quickly and get it done. But I think the time for studies is over…they took 13 people and 13 months to basically say nothing.”
Rick Craig, director of regulatory affairs for the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), 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. “Having 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.”
Land Line talked further about the misconceptions of the report on its blog , noting stories that appeared in media articles included titles such as “Study reveals truck drivers threat,” “Be warned: Some truckers prone to unconsciousness,” and “Medically unfit truckers roam the highways and authorities know it.”