An increase in truck drivers over age 65 is creating a dangerous situation for motorists and pedestrians because older truckers often have slower reaction times and health problems that increase their risk of causing a large vehicle accident. Many drivers operate large trucks into their 70’s and 80’s, driving well beyond the limits of their ability to safely operate commercial trucks.
Aging Drivers, Declining Health
Everyone ages and truck drivers are no different. As individuals age, their muscles weaken, arthritis can set in, vision problems worsen, and hearing deteriorates. Lifestyle factors can increase the risk of heart disease, lead to the development of diabetes, and accelerate memory problems and cognitive decline. Moreover, many health conditions require the use of medications to mitigate and manage symptoms. These medications can result in drowsiness, fatigue, and clouded judgment which can significantly impair the driver.
All of these factors can diminish a commercial truck driver’s ability to safely operate a large truck. These health factors can make it difficult for truckers to identify and adhere to posted signs and calculate the intentions of other motorists. They can also lead to sudden heart attacks and strokes which can cause the driver to lose control over the vehicle and turn it into a 75,000 lbs. missile on the highway.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recognizes the risks of older drivers and the impact health conditions have on their ability to operate large vehicles. For this reason, CDL holders are required to obtain a medical certification when they renew their license. This certification is valid for a period of two years. However, individuals with certain conditions must renew their certification on an annual basis. These conditions include heart disease, diabetes, and vision problems. If medical examiners determine it necessary, they may also require annual recertification for individuals with identified sleep disorders.
However, a lot can change in 12 months. Even more can change in 24 months. As the driver ages, the likelihood is that their health will worsen and they will pose an even greater risk to motorists before the next medical evaluation occurs. In this interim, there is a significant risk they will cause a motor vehicle accident that causes serious personal injuries, fatalities, and property damage.