Commercial Driver Medical Exam Rules Changing in 2014

Occupational health providers, employers with commercial-vehicle operations, and bus and truck drivers need to start preparing for new commercial driver medical exam rules that go into effect in May 2014.

The days of commercial drivers routinely obtaining their medical certification from the family doctor without further ado are coming to an end because of federal regulations announced in 2012.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) regulations require health care professionals who do medical exams of interstate truck and bus drivers to be trained, tested and certified on the specific physical qualifications that affect a driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle. The final rule also created a national online database of medical examiners who have completed the FMCSA certification process.

By May 21, 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 who fail to maintain federal standards will be removed from the registry. Drivers seeking to renew their license must have their exam done by a registered practitioner or their license will be invalid. Medical certificates issued before this date are valid until the expiration date.

All commercial drivers must pass a Department of Transportation medical exam at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their commercial driver’s license and legally drive a commercial motor vehicle. Medical examiners perform approximately 3 million exams on commercial truck and bus drivers each year, according to the FMCSA. The medical exam looks at a range of conditions to determine a driver’s medical fitness, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory and muscular functions, vision and hearing.

The National Registry was created to ensure that medical examiners understand how FMCSA medical regulations and guidance apply to commercial drivers and reduce highway crashes. Information from federal crash investigations indicates that improper medical certification of commercial drivers with serious disqualifying medical conditions has directly contributed to crashes that resulted in injuries and deaths.

“Truck and bus drivers deserve highly trained medical examiners that think safety first,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “By holding medical examiners accountable to high standards of practice, we raise the bar for safety and save lives through increased commercial driver and vehicle safety.”

This regulation applies to interstate drivers only. Intrastate drivers must follow state medical-certification requirements.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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