On any given day, millions of professional drivers climb into the cabs of their trucks ready to move freight from one location to the next. Other drivers on the road count on those truck drivers being healthy enough to be safe. Indeed, the federal government has established certain rules to that end. The rules ensure that the nation’s truck drivers do what they do safely. In order to get a truck driving job, you have to pass a basic medical exam that looks at certain issues critical to safe driving.
For the record, truck drivers do not have to be specimens of perfect health. They just need to demonstrate overall good health and, in the case of some sort of impairment, that said impairment is being managed or treated in a way that allows the driver to perform up to standards.
About Routine Medical Exam
Medical exams are routine for truck drivers. Exams must be conducted by a ‘qualified medical examiner’ as defined by federal regulations. Usually, this means a doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant or chiropractor. A medical exam must be completed prior to training as a new truck driver and then on a regular basis following licensing.
Medical exams to look at things such as:
- History of seizures
- History of head or brain injuries
- Pacemaker use
- Blood pressure and cholesterol
- Existence or evidence of diabetes
- Existence or evidence of heart disease
- Sleep disorders
- History of strokes
- Missing or impaired limbs
- History of alcohol and drug use.
Again, you do not have to be in perfect health to apply for truck driving jobs. You just have to be in reasonably good health and able to demonstrate that any health issues you do have would not impair safe driving.
Exemptions and SPE Certificates
It is possible to get an exemption for conditions such as diabetes or hearing impairment. In such a case, the driver would have to apply for an exemption using the correct federal form and submitting relevant evidence. The FMSCA can take up to 180 days to make a decision.
In cases where a driver has a missing or impaired limb, it might still be possible to drive professionally thanks to the Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) program. Drivers with such physical impairments can apply for an SPE certificate, a certificate that can be granted to any driver who can demonstrate the ability to drive safely. Essentially, the driver has to take an additional test proving that the missing or impaired limb is not an issue.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Believe it or not, the biggest health-related concern for America’s truck drivers is drug and alcohol use. The government takes the use of drugs and alcohol very seriously. Employers do as well. For example, Salt Lake City-based C.R. England conducts drug tests in accordance with the law to ensure their drivers are never impaired when behind the wheel.
Truck drivers should be aware that employers are allowed to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on any and all drivers who are about to enter service. As for the medical exam, doctors and nurses are trained to ask about drug and alcohol use as a way of gaging whether it is going to be a problem or not for the truck driver. A standard urine test is also part of the medical exam.
America’s truck drivers do not need to be perfectly healthy in order to work. But they do need to be healthy enough to be safe on the roads.