Driver & Vehicle Examination Report Violations

When drivers get pulled over to get their vehicle inspected, sometimes it’s not just the vehicle which is out-of-order but the driver himself.  Needless to say, usually citations will be issued affecting both driver and vehicle.  What were some of the common violations that drivers presented to our office with Last month?  Violation of 391.41(a), “operating a property-carrying vehicle without possessing a valid medical certificate” continues to be a common one.  More likely than not it’s not a first violation for the driver in question, and can result in an ” Out of Service Order”.

A less common presentation is citation for violation of 391.11 (b) (2) which states that driver:

(2) Can read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records;

Have you ever had a driver come into your office who stated that either he or she didn’t understand or speak any English, and requested or brought in an interpreter?.   I’m not kidding (And I will be careful here, so as not to offend any one), but practicing in Queens New York, I’ve had people “sigh” in disbelief that I could not speak Korean, Chinese, Greek or Ukrainian.  As multicultural as I may consider myself to be, my language skills do not extend beyond English, French, and Creole.  If any of my assistants are available, then we can stretch it to Tagalog and are you ready for this one?…. yes, Spanish!  Well, 391.11 (b) (2) clearly states that at least conversational English is necessary.  If a driver does not understand English at all during the examination, and you issue a medical examiner’s certificate anyway (because you either can converse in their native language or they used an interpreter), what happens when they are stopped by the state police who interrogates them in English?  As embarrassing to the driver as the situation may be, they can be put “Out of Order”, and their citation will literally say “until he or she learns to speak English”. (This is exactly what happened in Pennsylvania  to one New York driver that came to see me for the first time).  Fortunately for him his night schooling was paying off and he was becoming fluent enough in English to pass his DOT physical examination.

This topic of English fluency is really a “hotbed” of sorts.  There is anger, insinuations and gross accusations from both sides. Those who feel that they are being discriminated against, and those who feel that their jobs are unfairly being taken.  It certainly doesn’t defuse the situation when we are faced with CDL fraud schemes like the one recently busted up in New York and reported in Overdrive magazine.  According to the article, the DOT said that many of the test takers did not speak or write in English.   The high-tech shenanigans used to cheat by some of these test takers alone is worth reading about, but so are the many inflammatory but revealing comments that follow the article.

There are also those that argue that the English proficiency rule is over politicized and should be removed altogether, because it is the lack of driving skills and not English skills that is the real cause of accidents.  Is it then contradictory to the intentions of 391.11 (b) (2) that many CDL training schools teach in languages other than English and that the written portion of the CDL permit can also be taken in non-English languages?.  The “ante” is further upped with the controversial cross border trucking agreement made between the U.S. and Mexico, which is seen by some as an economic threat, and not just a contributor to increased accident rates due to poor English proficiency (Overdrive Magazine January 2015).  The FMCSA received criticism (and some support) from many fronts for this decision, from drivers to trucking organizations, unions and other stakeholders.

Nevertheless, as medical examiner’s when performing a physical we need to assure that drivers meet the qualification standards, including 391.11 (b) (2).  Remember, If they do not understand what you say to them, it could very well be that they are not proficient in English, or maybe they have a medical issue (hearing deficit, speech or language abnormality etc…). that needs to be looked into.

About Randolph Rosarion M.D.

Board Certified physician in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) Certified National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) Certified Medical Review Officer (MRO) USCIS designated Civil Surgeon

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