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What are Medical Examination and Health Standards for Truckers in Texas?

Texas truck drivers need to have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), and one of the core pre-requisites for this license is to be medically certified as fit for the job. Due to the high probability of catastrophic truck accidents because of the physical demands of driving heavy machinery for long hours and days. Truckers should comply with more rules than passenger vehicle drivers. However, many unfortunate accidents caused by trucks may occur from truck drivers who bypass these important medical certification rules.

Generally, the medical certification test ensures that Texas truck drivers do not have any physical impairment or underlying health problems like sleep disorders or seizures that can hinder them from being alert and responding swiftly to sudden changes on the road. Hence, new trucker and re-certification applicants have to undergo several tests like urinalysis and eye tests to check if they meet the health standards set by regulatory bodies like the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) or, specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Hence, if a truck driver fails to comply with trucking rules/laws and causes an accident due to poor health, affected persons can establish fault and receive compensation from the truck driver and/or carrier (company).

What are Medical Certification Requirements for Truck Drivers?

In line with trucking rules, Texas truck drivers are required to undergo and pass a physical checkup by a health care professional in the FMCSA National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) before getting a medical examiner certificate (MEC), commonly referred to as a medical card.

Generally, truck drivers with medical cards are deemed physically able to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) according to the required health standards. However, note that medical certification requirements depend on the category a truck driver falls under, such as non-excepted interstate, non-excepted intrastate, excepted interstate, and others. For instance, interstate truck drivers have to meet the following health conditions:

  • Ability to read and speak English
  • Good hearing, even with hearing aids
  • No arm, hand, foot, leg, or finger injury that can hinder operations
  • No respiratory dysfunctions that can limit one's ability to safely drive a commercial motor vehicle
  • No high blood pressure 
  • No psychiatric disorder
  • No cardiovascular, neuromuscular, orthopedic, arthritic, or rheumatic problems that will hinder vehicle control
  • No color blindness and at least 20/40 vision for each eye, use of corrective lenses acceptable
  • No epilepsy, seizures, sleep disorders, or conditions that may lead to loss of consciousness
  • No loss of limb without a waiver
  • No diabetes mellitus,  presently being treated with insulin, except if the medical examiner deems the driver free of complications that might limit the driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle
  • No alcohol or drugs addiction
  • No history of psychiatric disorders or nervous, mental, organic, or functional diseases that can cause vehicle control issues.

On the other hand, medical certification requirements for other categories depend more on the particular vehicle, cargo type, and type of operation needed. However, all truck drivers should meet the fitness standard.

What does a Truck Driver Physical Examination Entail?

A truck driver’s medical examination involves providing the DOT-approved doctor or medical examiner with a detailed health history and current medication review by filling a form and taking the following tests:

  • Pulse rate and rhythm
  • Weight and height
  • Vision tests using the Snellen Chart or other eye tests to check if the driver can see at a distance or distinguish traffic lights and signals, or has monocular vision
  • Blood pressure
  • Urinalysis to check numerical reading for specific gravity, blood, protein, and sugar levels and potentially detect diabetes, liver, or kidney problems.
  • Hearing tests like a whisper or audiometry test
  • Medical examination to look for abnormalities in the body systems or organs.

Note that alcohol or drug tests are not standard medical exam practice unless specifically requested during the pre-employment process. It is also possible to retake a blood pressure test.

After the tests, the medical examiner determines if the trucker:

  • Meets standards: The person qualifies for the certificate or meets standards with applicable state variances
  • Does not meet standards: With explanations provided
  • Meets standards but requires periodic monitoring with explanations and a specific timeframe provided.

Other examination status includes 'determination pending' and 'incomplete examination'. Providing false medical information may lead to an invalidated certificate, downgraded CDL, and civil or criminal penalties.

Can a Trucker Keep Their CDL Without a Medical Card in Texas?

Texas truck drivers cannot keep their Commercial Driver's License (CDL) without a medical card. Failure of a trucker to provide a verifiable medical card, which will lead to the trucker's CDL being downgraded to a normal passenger driver’s license.

What if the Truck Driver’s Medical Certificate Had Expired?

A truck driver’s medical certificate typically lasts up to 24 months or shorter if there is a need for periodic monitoring. The driver will receive a notice approximately 60 days before the medical certificate expires and has to undergo another examination and submit another medical examiner’s certificate before the current one expires. Failure to renew certification can lead to downgraded CDL and loss of driving privileges. Additionally, if the medical certificate is not renewed for some time, the driver may have to go through the CDL process from the beginning.

As the CDL is downgraded to a passenger driver’s license, the motor carrier or trucking companies should prohibit the trucker from driving a truck. However, in some unique circumstances, Texas truck drivers may continue using the expired medical certificate for some time. For example, in March 2020, there was a waiver extending the validity of medical cards that expired on or after March 1 to June 30, 2020, due to the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

How do Violations of Medical Certification Rules Affect Your Claim for Compensation Following a Truck Accident?

If there is evidence that a truck driver’s medical condition is related to an accident that causes a death, an injury, or property damages like a car wreck, it will be easier for claimants to prove negligence. Furthermore, if the motor carrier allows the truck driver to continue working despite the expiration of the medical certificate or knowledge of the truck driver's impairment, this can also prove the company’s liability in the accident.

Under FMCSA rules, all trucking companies have to require and ensure that their truckers have medical certification and that the certificates are up to date (not expired) before allowing them to take trucks to the highway. This should be implemented to ensure safety and reduce the probability of a truck accident. Upon violation of these rules, victims have a strong claim against the trucking company too. Proving negligence of the trucker and the trucking company would strengthen the claims, and thus make it more likely for claimants to receive the compensation. Engaging the service of a truck accident attorney will also aid the truck accident investigation.

What does a Texas Truck Accident Attorney do?

In truck accident cases involving truck drivers or motor carriers, claimants may need a skilled personal injury lawyer with experience in dealing with compensation. Texas Truck Accident Attorneys help clients gather evidence like the truck driver's medical records to prove liability, and guide clients to get the best possible compensation for all physical, financial, and emotional damages suffered.

From truck accident investigations to negotiations and court cases, a Texas Truck Accident Attorney uses knowledge of truck rules, experience, and other available resources to make sure that victims of truck accidents obtain a fair settlement. To find a truck accident attorney in Texas, concerned individuals may conduct a simple search online by using keywords such as "truck accident lawyer near me" or "accident attorney near me". Victims of truck accidents or concerned family members may also use the Texas state bar online directory to find qualified accident attorneys and law firms around the state.

Are Truck Accidents Common in Texas?

According to the FMCSA Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts (LTBCF), there were 5,005 fatalities and over 2.7 million injured persons in large truck crashes that happened in 2019. Additionally, there were 392,000 truck accidents involving property damage only in the same year. The majority of these fatalities, injuries, and property damages were because of a collision with a truck in transport.