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Easing diabetic restrictions may lead to truck accident risk

For years, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has barred some truck drivers with a chronic illness from operating large commercial vehicles. However, it is now contemplating allowing some drivers with diabetes to hit the highways again. However, will this decision result in more Texas residents facing a higher risk of being involved in a serious truck accident?

The FMCSA has recently updated its guidelines concerning which diabetic drivers could be permitted to get behind the wheel of their rigs. Truckers who wish to work will be required to submit the stipulated documents that prove they meet the guidelines. These drivers must have diabetes that has been well controlled for the past year with no incidents of symptoms of hypoglycemia for the past 12 months, which can include severe dizziness or loss of consciousness.

Drivers must also undergo a dilated eye exam every 24 months to check for diabetes related retina damage or increased eye pressure and swelling. Drivers who have had any episodes of low blood sugar without any warning signs or a blood sugar level below 60 milliliters per decimeter would be disqualified for a minimum of 26 weeks. Furthermore, any drivers with advanced diabetic retinopathy would not be eligible for reinstatement.

While many drivers who have a history of well-controlled diabetes may never pose a risk to others, diabetes is a disease that can fluctuate without warning. In some cases, an increased stress level can cause a diabetic to experience either higher or lower levels of blood sugar. Additionally, the FMCSA guidelines do not address the complications that can result from a higher-than-normal blood sugar, nor does it mention whether diabetic neuropathy is a reason to disqualify a driver.

It is understandable that the agency does not want to discriminate against individuals who are coping with a serious chronic illness; however, this particular illness can pose a serious risk to other motorists. Texas families who have suffered either a serious physical injury or lost a loved one through a tragic truck accident are left to try to rebuild their lives. Nothing can return a loved one or restore physical health, but a successfully navigated civil suit may result in compensation that can ease victims' accident-related financial damages.

Source: safetyandhealthmagazine.com, "Report offers recommendations for CMV drivers with controlled diabetes", Accessed on Oct. 6, 2017

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