How Do You Know A Trucker Is Safe To Drive?

Tuesday, June 30th 2009, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK --Thousands of semis travel Oklahoma roads every day. So how do you know if the men or women behind the wheel are fit to handle a big rig?

There are certain criteria the drivers have to meet before they get in the driver's seat. A big piece of getting a commercial driver's license in Oklahoma takes place in a doctor's office. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires all drivers who take their trucks across state lines to pass a physical exam every two years.

Dr. Gregory Brooks at Concentra Urgent Care performs between 50 and 100 physicals every week.

"Take it very serious," Brooks said of the physical exam.

Dr. Brooks says the physical looks at blood work, reflexes, as well as vision and hearing.

"The whisper test needs to be five feet," Dr. Brooks said. "They need to be able to hear a whisper within five feet - in at least one ear."

The physical also tests the driver's reflexes, but Dr. Brooks says they're not able to test just how fast a driver can react. Instead they make sure the driver does not have trouble moving their arms and legs.

"Range of motion of all their extremities and their strength," he said.

Investigators say 76-year-old Donald Creed was not drinking or on the phone when he slammed his semi into stopped cars on I-44 on Friday. Ten people were killed.

Many have wondered whether a 76-year-old should even be allowed to drive a semi.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says there is no federal age limit for a CDL, and Dr. Brooks says it wouldn't be right to set a maximum age.

But, he says, the doctor should pay close attention to an older drivers.

"Look at the whole picture and just be keenly aware of all the ramifications of an aging patient," Dr. Gregory Brooks said.

The National Transportation Safety Board is sending seven investigators to Miami.  They'll be looking at everything from the driver's history to how the highway is designed.

They don't expect to have their final report finished for several months.