The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that commercial drivers pass tougher physical exams, including more thorough tests for controlled substances, before being allowed behind the wheel.
The recommendation came as part of a report on a fatal 1999 bus crash outside New Orleans, which killed 22 passengers. According to NTSB’s report, the driver had a history of heart and kidney problems, and had been in the hospital as recently as seven hours before the fatal accident.
“The failure of the medical certification process to remove unfit drivers is a systematic, not an isolated problem,” NTSB said in its report.
The NTSB said the following things are problems:
- Those who perform medical examinations - doctors, chiropractors, nurse practitioners and physician's assistants - may not have the knowledge of commercial driving needed to determine whether a medical condition poses a danger. Although there are information sources available to help, many practitioners don't know about them.
- Regulations on medical certification don't reflect current medical knowledge and can be ambiguous regarding conditions that call for disqualification.
- There is no process for driver medical examination forms to be reviewed; drivers must carry the card, but the form is simply filed away.
- There is no way to track medical certification exams. That lets drivers "doctor shop" - keep trying different doctors until they find one who will pass them.
- There is no way for enforcement authorities to know if a medical card is valid during an inspection.
FMCSA will review NTSB’s recommendations, NTSB said.