New nationwide rules governing how commercial drivers receive their medical certification took effect in 2014. Going forward, all U.S. Department of Transportation physicals must be performed by a member of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
In 2014, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that more than 22,000 medical professionals were on the national registry, with another 27,000 expected to be added. The registry can be found on the FMCSA’s web site.
Here are some important facts every driver should know about the new medical certificate rules:
Current certifications still work
Medical certificates held by commercial drivers are valid until the expiration date shown on the card. At that time, drivers need to find a certified medical examiner to perform the next physical.
New certifications are valid for two years
There are exceptions for medical conditions like hypertension, heart disease or abnormal blood pressure. Drivers with those conditions may need to renew their certifications on a yearly basis.
Proof is required
Drivers will need to keep a copy of their medical certificate with them when operating a commercial truck. A proposed FMCSA rule requiring medical examiners to electronically file medical exam results once a month will mean a driver only has to carry a copy of his or her certification for 15 days after the physical.
Medical examiners have authority
The FMCSA rules allow a medical examiner to determine if a driver is fit to operate commercial trucks. Even if a driver has a condition that is being treated by prescribed medicine, the medical examiner may decide that medication poses a safety risk. If a driver has a condition deemed hazardous to operating a truck, the medical examiner may decline to issue a certification until the condition is treated.
Drivers must be truthful
Each driver is held accountable for information provided about his or her health history. Drivers may face a civil penalty for making false statements about their health.
Employers do not have to pay
The new rules do not require a driver’s employer to pay for the medical examination. The cost of an exam is determined by the medical examiner.
Employers could be notified
The FMCSA does not prohibit the medical examiner from sharing a driver’s medical information with the driver’s employer. The regulatory requirements take precedence over the privacy rule in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Driving performance does not matter
A driver’s experience or past driving record has no bearing on his or her eligibility for the medical certificate.
Exemptions are available for certain conditions
A driver can be exempt from the medical certification rules if the FMCSA determines it is in the public interest. The FMCSA currently offers exemption programs for vision and insulin-treated diabetes mellitus. There is also a certificate program for drivers who have prosthetic limbs. A driver can also receive a waiver if he or she has a temporary medical condition and taking the medical exam at that time would make it unreasonably difficult to operate a commercial vehicle.
For answers to specific questions about medical certificates, visit the FMCSA’s frequently-asked-questions page. For more information on factoring, fuel discounts and service bundles, contact RTS today!