Suppose you were a trucker who had developed a health condition that threatened your driver’s license. What would you do? Every two years, you have to get a DOT physical showing you’re healthy enough to drive for a living. Now the deadline is coming up and you don’t think you’ll pass.
A friend mentions there’s a medical examiner who passes out a lot of medical certificates, sometimes without performing all the tests. It doesn’t seem quite on the level, but the doctor is approved by the Federal Department of Transportation. Would you go to the shady ME so you could keep your job?
As it happens, federal investigators recently discovered a DOT-approved medical examiner in Georgia whose standards for passing drivers were, shall we say, unduly low.
Prosecutors first became suspicious when they noticed the ME, who is a chiropractor, was performing far more DOT physicals than the typical medical examiner’s average of 13 or 14 per month. This medical examiner was averaging around 360.
It’s true that he was operating out of a large truck stop just outside Atlanta. The DOT allows medical examiners who perform DOT physicals and provide commercial driver certifications to operate out of truck stops. The busy location didn’t explain the chiropractor’s remarkable popularity.
Concerned, they sent in undercover agents. Ultimately, the investigators found that the chiropractor had been skipping some of the tests that are required, including vision and hearing screenings. Furthermore, they allege, he was falsifying entries on medical examiner certificates. He has been indicted on at least eight counts of fraud and has pled not guilty.
As for the drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided to revoke all 6,600 of the medical certificates issued by the chiropractor. According to the FMCSA, that includes drivers from 48 states, although the majority originated in Georgia. They will have 30 days to obtain a new medical certificate.
Now, despite the scenario at the beginning of this post, there is no proof that anyone intentionally sought out this ME in order to get a certificate for a physical they couldn’t pass, and it does not appear any drivers will be punished — as long as they are able to pass it within the next 30 days.
Commercial truck drivers are under a great deal of pressure to perform and to protect their livelihoods. It’s crucial for them to understand that performing their job safely requires a certain, baseline degree of health. The DOT physical is meant to ensure they have the ability to operate safely.