The limited availability of vital services due to COVID-19 led the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to extend expired medical certificates and commercial driver’s licenses through a series of enforcement notices. The most recent waiver is due to expire on May 31, 2021.
As most drivers and carriers resume normal operations, documenting the use of these waivers is essential for future reference.
Medical Card Waiver
FMSCA provided specific dates that determined whether drivers qualified for an extension to their medical certification:
|Med Card Expired:||Extended Through:|
|3/1/20 - 5/31/20||10/31/20|
|6/1/20 - 8/31/20||12/31/20|
|9/1/20 - 11/30/20||2/28/2021|
|On or after 12/1/20||5/31/2021|
Also, the following criteria had to be met to qualify:
- The existing medical card was issued for at least 90 days; and
- The driver was not diagnosed with a disqualifying medical condition since the previous medical exam.
It’s important to note that drivers who could find services would have been expected to renew their medical certification.
Recordkeeping for Lapsed Med Cards
Those that used the COVID-19 medical card waiver must show that their driver met the terms of FMCSA’s notice, including:
- Retaining a copy of the applicable enforcement notice to show auditors; and
- Documenting good faith efforts to find a service provider to perform driver physicals (e.g., phone conversations with the dates and facility names).
Also, motor carriers may need to retain the proof of the previous medical certificate (med card or MVR) longer than three years from the exam date to demonstrate the driver qualified for the waiver.
Driver’s License Waiver
Drivers with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or commercial learner’s permit (CLP) valid on February 29, 2020, and expired since March 1, 2020, were given until May 31, 2021, to renew. State driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) were also permitted to delay downgrading a CDL or CLP due to an expired medical card.
Note the waiver does not apply if the driver’s privileges were suspended or withdrawn for traffic offenses or the driver is otherwise disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
Since SDLAs were permitted, but not required, by FMCSA to extend the validity of licenses due to the health emergency, carriers and drivers should have verified whether the waiver was applicable. The date range may differ if the SDLA became operational in the midst of the waiver.
A best practice is to capture a screenshot of the SDLA’s website to show notices and limited hours of operation as a reason why a license expired.
Getting an Active License
Complicating matters, the waiver deadline is on a federal holiday. CDL or CLP drivers should plan to submit their updated medical cards to the SDLA no later than May 18, 2021, to allow for the state’s 10-day processing. Following this timeline should result in an updated MVR that shows the medical status by May 28, 2021.
Motor carriers should try to obtain a new MVR by May 28, 2021, to confirm an expired or downgraded license was brought up to date. Drivers should not wait until the last minute to renew their licenses.
Back to Business as Usual
Even though the past year was chaotic, carriers must prove their drivers qualified for any COVID-related waiver and were brought back into compliance before its end date. An unqualified driver should not be operating a CMV as of June 1, 2021.
About the Author: Kathy Close is a transportation editor at J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Her areas of expertise include transportation security, DOT drug and alcohol testing, and driver qualification. Contact email@example.com with any questions.