New FMCSA Medical Examiners Final Rule will Certify Examiners

A new FMCSA medical examiners rule is an important step in helping to improve road safety. The new regulations will be a big change from existing legislation that allow any medical examiner licensed by the state to perform health exams on all interstate commercial truck drivers.

By June 1, the new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) medical examiners rule will start to take effect, and by May 21, 2014, all physicians who perform health checks on truck drivers will require specific training and certification. The new regulations will also apply to those medical examiners who carry out health checks on interstate bus drivers.

What they’re trying to achieve

According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the FMCSA is designed to achieve a number of objectives. They include:

  • The creation of a national online database of every medical examiner who has completed the FMCSA’s certification process
  • Providing a framework whereby medical examiners fully understand the specific physical demands required to operate a large truck or long-haul bus, and that they conduct their exams accordingly
  • Improvement of road safety for all road users (the top priority in the entire operation, according to Secretary LaHood), and especially the crashes and related personal injuries and deaths associated with commercial truck and bus accidents
  • Establishing a uniform and simple way of tracking drivers’ medical certificates

How the new FMCSA medical examiners rule will work

Within the next 30 days, the FMCSA plans to start rolling out the new regulations. Then, by May, 2014, every healthcare professional who performs a medical examination on an interstate truck or bus driver will have to be trained, tested and certified. The FMCSA agenda in its current format is:

  • By May 21, 2012, all health care providers, professional drivers, employers and law enforcement officers and agencies, as well as the public at large, will be able to review the new FMCSA training and testing standards for medical examiners on the FMCSA website, http://nrcme.fmcsa.dot.gov/.
  • As of May 21, 2014, every certified medical examiner will have to be on the National Registry database in order to provide a legally recognized examination. Any examiner who fails to maintain the federal standards specified at the time will be taken off the register of medical examiners.
  • By the same date—May 21, 2014—every commercial interstate truck and bus driver will have to have obtained a medical examination from a certified examiner listed on the National Registry database.

The FMCSA feels that the time gap provided allows healthcare professionals an ample opportunity to begin preparations to become certified examiners. They can begin registering on the National Registry website this summer, and testing and training centers will also be given time to prepare their curricula and receive FMCSA approval, according to a recent news release.

It’s a bigger job than you might think

Truck and bus drivers are already required under existing legislation to have regular health checks. This new FMCSA medical examiners rule is more about ensuring those people who are providing the health checks know what to look for and are up to speed with the physical demands of long-haul driving.

Every year, medical examiners perform upwards of three million health checks on commercial drivers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) medical exam looks for a wide variety of conditions that might impair a driver’s ability to safely operate an exceptionally large vehicle for long periods of time on unfamiliar roads in inhospitable conditions. Some of the things examiners look for include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Respiratory function
  • Muscular function
  • Any impairments in eyesight
  • Hearing difficulties

As things stand now, every commercial driver has to pass a DOT medical exam at least once every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate.  This is a statutory requirement and without it, a driver cannot maintain their commercial driving license or continue to drive a commercial truck or bus. These rules are unlikely to change going forward.

The ultimate aim of the new FMCSA medical examiners final rule is to save the lives of both professional drivers and the people who share the roads with them, not to heap even more beaurocratic red tape on hard-pressed truckers, according to FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Truck and bus drivers deserve highly-trained medical examiners that think safety first. By holding medical examiners accountable to high standards of practice, we raise the bar for safety and save lives through increased commercial driver…safety,” Ferro said.

Portland personal injury attorneys have welcomed the new initiative, saying anything that contributes to increased road safety must be embraced. They are well aware of the frighteningly high incidence of severe personal injuries that occur when a private motor car is hit by a commercial truck. The sheer size and power of a long-haul truck, or even a bus, means the car driver and passengers are far more likely to suffer devastating injuries than in other types of road accidents.

If the new regulations help increase the awareness among medical examiners of the dangers of physically incapable drivers getting behind the wheel of these large, powerful rigs, then they are a good thing. Of course, accidents will still occur. Oregon motorists, cyclists and pedestrians will, sadly, still be injured, crippled or killed in collisions with large commercial vehicles for as long as road traffic exists.

If you’ve been injured by a commercial truck or bus, filing a claim can be a difficult process. Who do you sue? Is it the driver? Is it the company he works for? Is it the company that built the bus or truck, or could it now be the medical examiner who passed the driver fit to operate a vehicle when he or she was not actually fit to do so?

A good Portland truck accident attorney has the answers to all those questions and more. They know what you’re entitled to and more importantly, they know how to go about getting you the compensation you deserve. Call for a free consultation before you talk to the insurance companies.