Do Unfit Truck Drivers Threaten Houston? Don't Ask HPD

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was released this week about truckers and bus drivers maintaining commercial licenses despite being "medically unfit."

The report highlights some extreme cases, like the driver of a tanker truck with a prosthetic leg who is permitted to drive until 2012. Or a bus driver with "life-threatening kidney and heart conditions" who was seen slumped in his seat before his bus crashed, killing 22 passengers.

Truckers driving through Houston are licensed in all parts of the country, as well as Mexico and Canada. There's no local or state agency that can regulate drivers except law enforcement.

The Houston Police Department has a Truck Enforcement Unit, and officers can pull over truckers with no probable cause and run safety checks. But a spokesman for the department says that officers do not check drivers for medical conditions.

"We're not doctors, and we can't confirm whether someone has a medical issue or doesn't have a medical issue," says Victor Senties, department spokesman. "If you have a medical condition that's going to hinder you driving a large vehicle, then you shouldn't be driving the vehicle in the first place, and you shouldn't even be issued a license."

So the people who issue commercial licenses are in charge of keeping sick drivers off the road. The study found, however, that "…many states only require individuals to self-certify that a medical examiner granted them a medical certification allowing them to operate commercial vehicles…As a result, we found several commercial drivers who made false assertions on their self-certification…" Shocking.

Members of Congress blame federal regulators for not implementing safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board in 2001.

-- Paul Knight

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