Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a federal investigation into medically unsafe truckers as a result of the recent spike of fatal truck accidents and medical certification fraud cases. The investigation is examining doctors who fraudulently certify truck drivers and how the FMCSA validates information about the licensed medical examiners on their national registry.
Now, the DOT Office of Inspector General has reported an update stating that action is being taken on several trucking-related crimes, including medical exam fraud. A Pennsylvania based formerly DOT-certified medical examiner, Dr. Michael McCormick, pled guilty to making a false statement after he allowed staff members who were not certified to complete a DOT medical exam report and issue a health certificate under his name.
Medical certifications are an important tool used to determine whether or not it is medically safe for an individual to operate a large commercial truck. Research has already revealed that medical conditions can lead to dangerous situations on the road. One study completed by researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine revealed that commercial drivers with three or more health issues are four times more likely to crash than healthier drivers. Conditions like heart disease, sleep apnea, diabetes, and back pain are just a few of the health issues associated with poor driving.
Some truckers are certified through unqualified or fraudulent healthcare providers, meaning there are likely a number of truckers with medically dangerous conditions cleared to drive commercial vehicles. In a particularly alarming case, Dr. Anthony Lefteris of Atlanta, Georgia pled guilty in 2017 to falsifying documents and selling fake medical certifications to over 600 truckers. While examining the prospective drivers, he did not do certain mandatory procedures such as a vision and hearing examination, which are important to ensure that the driver can safely operate a large commercial vehicle. Many of the drivers paid Lefteris cash in exchange for their clean certification.
Others question the wide range of specialties that are deemed acceptable to be listed as a certified medical provider for commercial trucker health screenings. On the national registry, the providers come from backgrounds including osteopaths, chiropractors, nurses, and physicians assistants in addition to doctors.
Ultimately, this investigation is hopes to make it so only medically qualified truck drivers are on the roads. Hopefully, it is successful in doing so.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident attorney specializing in catastrophic multi-axle collisions. He understands all facets of truck accident litigation; including federal regulations, drug and alcohol testing and hours of service requirements. He has authored a treatise entitled Litigating Truck Accident Cases and often educates other attorneys on trucking laws and regulations. You can learn more about Leizerman & Associates by visiting their website, www.truckaccidents.com.