In order to legally operate a commercial truck in the United States, a driver must first obtain a commercial driver's license (CDL). In order to qualify for a CDL, a person must first pass a test and have a doctor validate that the person is medically fit to operate a commercial truck. While the vast majority of truck drivers are hard-working and responsible employees, a 2006 report from the Department of Transportation (DOT) identified about 15,000 "suspect" CDL holders.
A truck driver's CDL can be considered suspect in a number of ways. Some examples are using fraudulent documents to obtain the license, cheating on the oral or written exam, or holding an invalid medical certification.
Fraudulent DocumentsFraudulent documents such as a falsified birth certificate, proof of residency, or state identification card have been used to help commercial truck drivers qualify for a CDL. One case involved an illegal immigrant from Macedonia whose 18-wheeler plowed into two vehicles and killed an entire family. An investigation into the accident uncovered that the truck driver had obtained his CDL using fraudulent documents that claimed he was a resident of Wisconsin (where he took his driver's test) in order to qualify for his commercial driver's license.
In September of 2013, 19 people were charged with operating and participating in a ring to help commercial driver's license applicants pass their written exam. Prosecutors found that this ring had helped more than 60 people cheat on the written test in order to obtain a CDL. The ring employed a number of schemes, one being providing the test takers with pencils that had a series of dots and dashes carved into the wood that reflected the answers to the "true/false" portion of the test. In another scheme, the test takers would actually leave the room and give their test to a ring member who would complete the test for them. Typically they would bribe contract employees at the DMV to look the other way so they could carry out the schemes.
In order to obtain a CDL, a truck driver must also pass a physical examination to ensure that he or she is healthy enough to drive. In many states, the exams minimal standards and can be administered by any health care professions. In fact, "medical clinics" have popped up at truck stops across the country. In the span of 20 minutes and for $30, truckers can get their medical certificate after being given a very limited examination. Often times the examination consist of nothing more than checking blood pressure, breathing, hearing and vision. Even if a trucker is denied his medical certification, he or she can easily go to another medical clinic and hope to pass the examination there. There is no database to check whether a driver is "doctor shopping."
Even more alarming is that many drivers don't even bother to get medically certified in the first place. A driver who cannot show a valid medical certificate is typically just cited and told to correct the problem at a later date. In the five year period before 2010, there were over 900,000 citations written to commercial vehicle drivers who could not prove they were medically qualified.
All of this adds up to an increased and unnecessary danger to the other motorists on the road. Even a qualified, professional truck driver is a danger due to the sheer size and weight of the vehicles they operate. The amount of trucks that are being driven by unqualified drivers is a safety issue that the public is largely unaware of.
If you've been in an accident with a commercial truck, you need to contact an experienced truck accident attorney to fight for your rights. Our firm has the experience and the resources to fully investigate each accident and determine if the truck driver may have been operating the truck with a fraudulent commercial driver's license. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.