After months of speculation on timing, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) delayed the implementation of a final rule that was supposed to streamline the medical certification process for those holding a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
Final implementation of the “Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration” rule — slated for June 22, 2018 — has been pushed back to June 22, 2021, according to information provided by the agency.
Why the Delay in the Federal Exemption?
The rule would have reduced the number of steps involved in sharing the results of a driver’s physical exam with state driver licensing agencies. Significantly, it would have eliminated the need for the CDL driver to be the middleman in the process.
As an alternative, the rule would have required the medical examiner to use the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners portal to submit a driver’s medical examination results directly to the FMCSA. The FMCSA, in turn, would transmit the CDL driver’s medical information to the national CDL database. States use that database to populate their drivers’ motor vehicle records (MVRs). The employer would simply request an MVR after the exam as proof of a CDL driver’s medical certification, and law enforcement would have more immediate access to the data during roadside inspections.
As you can see, the concept hinges on information technology (IT). First signs of IT concerns surfaced when the National Registry website went offline in December 2017. Many questioned whether the agency could get the portal up and running in time for the June deadline.
In April, the FMCSA finally admitted it was unable to receive or electronically transmit medical examination certification information from the National Registry to the states. On the other side of the process, many states are not equipped to receive the medical status from the CDL database to post to the driver’s record.
Without the IT infrastructure in place, the FMCSA was forced to delay implementation of the rule for two years, giving states time to make the necessary changes and allowing the FMCSA to restore its National Registry website.
How Does this Impact the Medical Examination Process?
Because of the delay, the existing process for issuing and reporting medical exams remains (mostly) in place.
The driver must:
- Be issued a med card by the medical examiner;
- Continue to carry the med card for 15 days following the physical exam; and
- Provide his or her licensing agency with a copy of the med card within a few days of the exam so it appears on the driving record within 15 days.
The motor carrier must:
- Request a copy of the med card from either the driver or the examiner as temporary proof of the driver’s medical status;
- Obtain an MVR within 15 days of the exam, showing the recent medical exam and status; and
- Verify that the examiner appears on the National Registry.
What’s Different with the Medical Examination Process?
One change did take effect on June 22, 2018, however. Medical examiners must report results of all completed driver physicals — including those in which the driver was found medically unqualified — to the FMCSA by midnight (local time) of the calendar day following the examination. This will provide the agency with more timely information on drivers who are medically unqualified.
The delay of the final rule affects the recordkeeping procedures for everyone involved in the driver’s medical exam. As a result, you may need to dialog with:
- Medical examiners, to make sure they are aware of the delay and the need to continue issuing paper copies of the med card to all drivers; and
- Any service providers that may audit your files or order MVRs.
You may also need to communicate the delay to those involved in the driver qualification process within your company.
Supervisors, human resources personnel, and administrative support personnel may also need to understand the effects of the delay.
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. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.