CBS Evening News: Steve Gursten explains how truck drivers with dangerous medical conditions are causing deadly wrecks
In this special report, Gursten outlines the safety crisis that truck accident attorneys see when truckers hide health problems to keep driving
According to the latest FMSCA statistics, nearly 4,000 large trucks and buses were involved in fatal crashes in 2014. But a recent report from ‘CBS This Morning’ and the ‘Evening News with Brian Pelley’ featuring Steven Gursten, Co-Founder of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, shows that some of these deadly truck wrecks could have been prevented if authorities did a better job of screening truckers for serious medical conditions, and limiting exemptions for other drivers with otherwise disqualifying medical conditions.
Gursten told CBS, “As an attorney, I see medically unfit drivers causing accidents all the time.” This is something our attorneys also commonly encounter in our own Roundtable law firm cases. In every lawsuit involving a truck, it’s important for attorneys to look very closely at driver personnel files and whether they are qualified to drive commercial trucks.
Here’s how the system currently works: Truck drivers are required to pass a health screening in order to drive. But the process is extremely flawed, as it depends heavily on a commercial drivers’ willingness to “self-report” and accurately answer questions about his or her medical well-being. This is essentially self-reporting, and as any personal injury attorney and medical doctor knows, self-reporting is a big problem. Our system requires truck drivers to report on something that could cost them their jobs, and in essence, promotes lying.
For instance, medical examiners are not going to investigate many disabling and extremely dangerous health conditions if the truck driver, whose livelihood often depends upon him continuing to drive a commercial truck, chooses to deny serious health problems. So unless it’s blatantly obvious on visual inspection to a medical examiner, the medical exam system that’s meant to protect all of us on the road today is very much broken. Here’s a blog post Gursten wrote about the problem, as outlined in the CBS broadcast.
“For the trucking companies, they want to look the other way, even though they know these truckers really should not be behind the wheel because they’re too dangerous for everybody else on the road. But they need to put drivers behind the wheel so they can get paid,” Gursten said to CBS correspondent Chris Van Cleave.
The network’s investigation also found cases where drivers omitted dangerous medical conditions from the DOT medical form, which the driver is expected to fill out truthfully. For instance, a dash cam video showed Greyhound driver Curtis Woods slamming into a pickup, killing the driver. He later admitted he stopped using the machine to treat his sleep apnea and even hid his condition.
Gursten shared his own case with CBS: That of Patrick Nunez, a loving father and husband who was killed after a fully-loaded gravel hauler crashed into his car on I-75 in Detroit, Michigan. The truck driver had epilepsy and was on powerful epilepsy medication that causes drowsiness. His employers turned a blind eye to his medical condition.
Simply put, these truckers should not be behind the wheel.
CBS News has reported that the U.S. Department of Transportation says safety is its top priority and fraudulently obtaining a medical certificate is illegal. The American Trucking Association has called aspects of the DOT program troubling and in need of further reform.