Overdrive Staff | January 01, 2010

No age or BMI cutoffs, says FMCSA

Measurement of body mass index will not be used by itself to determine obesity-related conditions.

In a Dec. 2 meeting conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Office of Medical Programs aimed at addressing the questions about coming changes to medical certification regulations of commercial drivers, the agency’s Chief Medical Officer Benisse Lester and medical programs chief Elaine Papp both repeatedly emphasized the case-by-case nature of most areas of medical disqualification.

“The primary concerns are the driver’s physical ability to function while operating a commercial vehicle,” said Papp in response to a question about a potential federal cap on the age of commercial drivers. “Medical requirements should be performance-based and not linked to age. We’re not looking at making any changes based on age at this point.”

Similarly, regarding the subject of Body Mass Index, a measurement which expresses the ratio of fat to muscle in an individual, FMCSA medical programs director Mary Gunnels said BMI would not be a factor by itself in any testing mandate for conditions associated with obesity, such as sleep apnea. A BMI number above 30 is considered to indicate obesity. Gunnels, Lester and Papp all stressed it was just “one among many measurements associated with determining obesity,” in Gunnels’ words, and that “we don’t have a specific requirement on testing.”

FMCSA’s Medical CDL program, set for full implementation in January 2012, feeds medical certification data directly to the CDL Information System database. Combined with a reporting requirement for approved examiners linked to the medical CDL, it will be much harder for drivers whose certifications have been disqualified or lapsed to slip through the regulatory cracks.

As more information is gained from medical examiners, FMCSA will be able to more easily enforce requirements placed on drivers to disclose any change in health that could affect medical certification, such as deteriorating vision.

— Todd Dills

Calif. board to reconsider truck rule

The California Air Resources Board will consider a new provision in April to provide truckers more flexibility in cleaning up diesel emissions under the state’s Truck and Bus Rule that was to take effect Jan. 1, 2011. CARB says it is taking into account the recession, which has resulted in less trucking and, in turn, cleaner air.

At its Dec. 9 meeting, CARB said its staff has demonstrated that the down economy has cut truck operating time in the state, thus reducing emissions.

The board also directed staff to withdraw and redo the health report that carried CARB staffer Hien Tran’s name since it was learned last year that he falsely claimed he held a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California-Davis. The implementation of the rule will continue to be carried out during this period. The board also neglected to second a motion by board member John Telles, who wanted to repeal the diesel rule after learning of Tran’s misconduct.

In December 2008, CARB passed the Truck and Bus Rule that requires truck owners to install diesel exhaust filters on their rigs by Jan. 1, 2011, with nearly all vehicles upgraded by 2014.

Jim Johnston, president of the Owner-Operators Independent Driver Association, wrote a letter Dec. 4 to CARB and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger requesting a rule delay, but not just because of the Tran scandal. The board has granted some relief to truckers unable to meet their deadlines for some reefer haulers and port truckers, and CARB should do the same under the Truck and Bus Rule, he said.

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.