Recently an important new safety rule was announced by the U.S. Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, which requires healthcare professionals performing medical examinations for interstate truck and bus drivers to be trained, tested and certified on the various physical qualifications that affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. There will also be an online database of medical examiners who have completed the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) Certification training and have gone through the appropriate vetting in this regard.
By late May, 2014 all Certified Medical Examiners must be listed in the National Registry Database and drivers must obtain a medical examination from a Certified Examiner. Medical Examiners perform millions of examinations each year in assessing an array of conditions including respiratory issues, muscular issues, vision, hearing and cardiovascular issues. CDL license holders must pass an examination every two years in order to have a valid Medical Certificate and maintain their CDL to legally drive a commercial motor vehicle.
Before adoption of the new rule, there had been no required training program for the medical professionals who conduct driver physical examinations. Although the regulations require the Medical Examiners to be knowledgeable about the regulations, there was no specific knowledge of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s physical qualification standards required or verified by testing of these Examiners. Therefore, the concern was that many of the medical professionals who conducted these examinations may have been unfamiliar with the FMCSA Physical Qualification Standards and how to apply them with regard to their various examinations of CDL holders.
The National Registry was promoted and will now become reality in order to ensure that all of the Medical examiners are familiar with the driver qualification process and driver qualification standards so that all of the medical examiners have presumably the same level of knowledge of Regulations and Guidelines. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also continues to allow employers the option to require that drivers be examined by a medical examiner selected and/or compensated by the employer because they have an obligation to require their drivers to comply with the regulations (49 CFR 390.11).
There is nothing prohibiting an employer from enforcing more stringent requirements relating to the safety standards of its operations. (49 CFR 390.3(d)) The full summary of the FMCSA proposal for National Registry of Medical Examiners with comments and responses by the FMCSA is available through the Department of Transportation’s website.