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Tragic truck accident shows importance of CDL medical clearance

When you watch or read the news, you know you will undoubtedly come across a tragic story from time to time. While most tragedies leave us feeling sympathy for victims and their families, some stories can highlight important lessons for us all.

To illustrate this point we need only look to a recent tragedy out of Maine where two people died after being struck by a commercial truck driver. Though this accident occurred thousands of miles away from residents here in Georgia, the story still highlights an important fact: federal safety laws exist for a reason and should never be ignored under any circumstances.

The story behind the tragedy

In an article for the Press Herald, we learn that the truck driver responsible for the collision was an insulin-dependent diabetic who, in May 2016, had been told by his medical provider that he was "no longer permitted to drive across state lines." That's because his condition could cause him to go into diabetic shock, fall unconscious and potentially cause a collision with other vehicles.

Getting medical clearance to drive a commercial vehicle

Under federal law, as dictated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, all commercial drivers who operate commercially through interstate channels must maintain a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate (ME Certificate). This is to ensure the driver is able to operate their rig safely without risk of causing a condition-related accident.

Although there are some conditions, like diabetes, that can imply a driver is unsuitable to drive, commercial truck drivers can seek a federal exemption, explains the American Diabetes Association, which allows the holder of a CDL to still conduct interstate commerce. Unfortunately, instead of seeking an exemption, the driver in this tragedy concealed his condition and obtained medical clearance to drive from another doctor.

The lesson to learn

A tragedy like this reminds us of the importance of federal and state safety rules, particularly when it comes to commercial drivers.

Because of the size of semi-trucks, the immense weight they can carry and the fact that many commercial truck drivers cross state lines every day, drivers in smaller vehicles are always at risk of suffering catastrophic or fatal injuries when they collide with trucks. As such, it's important for us to know CDL holders are medically fit to drive; and if they aren't, steps are taken to remove them from the road.

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