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Are truck driver medical examinations strict enough?

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. - On March 31,a truck driver made headlines after driving 20 km in the wrong direction on Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton before plunging to his death over an overpass. The incident was...






BOWMANVILLE, Ont. – On March 31,a truck driver made headlines after driving 20 km in the wrong direction on Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton before plunging to his death over an overpass. The incident was captured on camera by another motorist and the resulting viral video lead to speculation about the 25-year-old driver’s intent.

While some called it a malicious plot or suicide attempt, his family defended the victim, saying he had Type 1 diabetes and sometimes suffered hypoglycemic reactions which caused seizures and blackouts. Though the final toxicology reports won’t be released for several more weeks, the accident opened the debate on the role of mandatory medicals drivers must undergo to be deemed “safe” for the road. Was the accident an isolated event or could it have been prevented through medical intervention? Truck News stopped by the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to see if drivers think medical examinations for truck drivers are strict enough.

John Pell, an O/O with his own company, J&R Trucking, says that truckers shouldn’t be permitted to operate while on most medications.

“With some medication, you get dizzy, you hallucinate, and you lose your coordination. I think truck drivers shouldn’t take any medication other than an Aspirin,” he says.

“(The industry needs) new standards for medication (and) doctors that follow rules, because it’s life or death out there. And when a doctor let’s an (unfit) patient go, he’s the killer.”

Brian Reed, a driver with Kriska Transportation out of Prescott, Ont., says the outcome of a driver’s medical is based heavily on the individual conducting the exam.

“The medical itself is strict enough but a lot of it is left up to the physician that’s doing the examination. It all depends on whether the physician himself lets it slide,” he says.

Don Knight, drives for JP Transport, based out of Aubigny, Man. He says that while examinations are thorough enough, there are still many truckers driving in ill health.

“Those who can’t fit in the booth at the restaurant or have trouble getting behind the wheel, how those people get passed at the doctor’s office is amazing,” Knight says.

Pat Bailey, a driver with Kriska Transportation, based out of Mississauga, Ont., says that while truckers suffering from diseases like diabetes shouldn’t be banned from driving altogether, they should perhaps get themselves to the doctor more often than required.

“I think (the case of the Edmonton driver) is just one that slipped through the cracks (but) if he was diabetic, he should have been aware of what was going on with himself, right?”

Michael O’Connor, who drives for TST Truckload Express out of Mississauga, Ont., says that while the Edmonton crash, if caused by diabetes, was probably an isolated case, it should be a combined effort between drivers and physicians to keep roads safe.

That said, O’Connor believes that a lack of decent medical coverage in the industry may discourage drivers from getting the treatment they need – often to disastrous ends.


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