Medical requirements put cabdrivers out of work

City could develop a waiver to help drivers keep livelihood

Posted: Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Taxi driver Jason Morrow has been out of work for seven days.

His permit to drive a cab expired Feb. 15 and he couldn't renew it because of stricter medical requirements that went into effect last April. His left eye is blind.

"I told my landlord that I lost my job, but he said he was sorry but I still need to come up with the rent next month," said Morrow, who had been a cabdriver for five years.

"I am the only breadwinner of my family. I don't know how I am going to feed my kids," said Morrow, who has three children, the youngest one 4 years old.

Morrow said he knows at least four other taxi drivers who have lost their jobs because they failed their physical exams.

City officials have met with these cabdrivers and owners of cab companies twice in January to identify solutions. Maria Gladziszewski, special project manager for the city, said the city might include a waiver in the regulation to help these cabdrivers keep their livelihood.

A proposed change will be sent to taxi company owners by the end of this week to get their feedback. The Juneau Assembly will review the change at its Committee of the Whole meeting on March 21.

Although the city had always required taxi drivers to pass a physical exam, it didn't state clearly what the exam entailed. The city changed the regulations last year. Drivers of commercial vehicles such as taxis, shuttles and limousines are now required to meet the medical standards set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

Based on the new standards, a person is qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person has not lost a limb and does not have high blood pressure or diabetes requiring insulin for control. A driver needs to have at least 20/40 vision in both eyes with corrective lenses.

Cap. Tom Porter, said only a small number of Juneau's 151 commercial vehicle drivers will lose their jobs because of the new medical standards.

"In my estimate, fewer than 10 drivers are affected," he said. "But we are trying to be responsive."

Although Morrow failed his physical because of his blind left eye, one thing that came out of Morrow's physical exam this year was that his doctor informed him on Tuesday he has Hodgkin's disease, a cancerous growth of cells in the lymphatic system.

His wife, Sherrilyn, said she is stressed out.

"For the first time, we have to apply for food stamps to feed the family," she said in tears. "When it rains, it pours."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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