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Medical Cards for Drivers: What Carriers Really Think

medical cards for driversDON JERRELL
HNI Associate Vice President

At our recent FMCSA and Wisconsin State Patrol Update, we had some lively Q&A on the requirements for medical cards for drivers.

Here's a recap of some of the high points — a taste of what to expect from this annual workshop next year!

Wisconsin is Doing Fine

According to our speaker from FMCSAthere have been few problems in Wisconsin with meeting the medical certification requirements. Other states, however, have struggled with getting their computer systems up to speed. (The silver lining, if you've had troubles, is things could be worse!)

All About the Deadlines for Medical Cards for Drivers

Naturally, if there's a federal requirement, there's a deadline. Some important dates for medical certification to keep in mind include:

  • Jan. 30, 2014: This is the effective date (now passed) that commercial drivers must submit their medical certificate to their state Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Jan. 30, 2015: Interstate commercial drivers must keep copies of their medical examiner's certifications with them in their vehicle until this date.
  • May 21, 2014: As of this date, all drivers must get medical certification from a health care pro listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

Finding a Certified Doctor

Drivers only can get medical certification from a certified medical examiner who's on the National Registry. The state DMV syncs its records of who's a certified medical pro with the registry. A company must verify that a doctor is certified, according to 391.51 (requirements for driver qualification file): (9) A note relating to verification of medical examiner listing on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners required by § 391.23(m).

Trouble with Sleep Apnea

Some of our audience members shared frustration over sleep apnea rules (or rather, a lack of sleep apnea rules). If a certified medical examiner thinks a driver may have a sleep-related condition (e.g., sleep apnea), the examiner often requires the driver to take a sleep study test. This sleep test is an obstacle to getting a medical card. Workshop attendees said it often takes weeks to get a driver in to see a sleep specialist.

In a nutshell, since there's no official FMCSA rule on the books for sleep apnea evaluation and the framework for evaluation is open to interpretation, if the medical examiner thinks there's a risk of sleep apnea, the doc will request that the driver sees a specialist for diagnosis and treatment.

Guidelines vs. Rules

The sleep apnea issue represented a chief frustration the trucking industry is having with medical cards for drivers. Some motor carriers in our audience said they feel like medical examiners were being too literal in following guidelines. Out in the field, they're finding that some doctors are more strict than others.

Even though all these medical examiners have been certified and are on the National Registry, different interpretations can mean the difference between drivers on the road and drivers in doctor's offices, waiting to see specialists.

Our FMCSA and Wisconsin State Patrol reps said they hear these frustrations all the time, but until the laws change, they're stuck enforcing what's currently on the books. These guys know the regs inside and out, but because they also know trucking, they can see why some of these guidelines tick people off.

They really serve two masters — the trucking firms on the road and government. They said the best way to get better rules was to work through the law-making system we've got — that means touching base with elected officials and industry interest groups with your concerns.

Safety is No. 1 Priority

We all can agree, though, that everyone in transportation wants the same thing — regs that make our roads safer and let everyone have a fair shake at making some good money. Our FMCSA speaker told the audience that he really needed to give his talk to the people who would never show up at his presentation. Everyone at the workshop, he said, obviously cared about having a safety culture and understanding the regs.

If you were at our workshop, what was your top takeaway? If you couldn't join us, what questions might you have asked? How are you feeling about medical cards for drivers? Please sound off in comments!

[ CLICK HERE FOR SLIDE DECKS ] FMCSA & Wisconsin State Patrol Update -Make sure your business is up to speed  with all current transportation regulatory and compliance issues-

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Topics: Transportation Safety / Compliance