Cover story: Medically Certified
When full implementation is achieved, drivers won’t need to carry a medical card any longer. Medical information will be tied directly to your CDL.
“We’ll be working with the state licensing agencies,” says Minor, “to get out the appropriate reminders” to drivers. “Our intent,” he adds, “is to provide a deterrent to drivers falsifying medical cards. Combined with the [National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners], long-term the plan is to electronically link the two together, and registry doctors will submit driver certifications electronically. We’ll have accurate information on who has the medical card and assurance that the person who issued the medical card is applying the federal standards appropriately and consistently.”
Registry aims to stop abuses
Chiropractor Dr. Clinton Smith says the proposed National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners will be a good deal for drivers and carriers, including weeding out exam providers who don’t follow the rules.
For drivers, the program should help identify an individual’s medical conditions and recommend treatment. He says examiners who choose to perform DOT physicals under the proposed program will be dedicated to thoroughly testing truckers. “With the new program you’re going to get a lot better evaluations,” he says. “The FMCSA goal is not to limit drivers, but to keep them driving, but if they have conditions, to make sure they are actively monitored and healthy enough to drive.”
A major concern the FMCSA hopes to alleviate in the proposal is the practice of some carriers and drivers “doctor shopping” for sympathetic medical practitioners who pass a driver after a cursory exam or no exam at all. NTBS’s Dr. Mitch Garber says the program may take a step in that direction if information is noted in the registry about a driver looking around for a passing grade. “This rule does not mandate it,” he says.
Smith acknowledges the proposal doesn’t completely guard against drivers seeking shady medical professionals, but it should help expose those examiners. “I think you’re going to have examiners get training who will realize they have to watch who they certify,” he says. “It will be a good way to police the examiner force. We’ll all have NRCME numbers, and trucking companies that find an examiner who’s doing some odd things and not adhering to rules and regulations can turn them in and have them investigated.”
Chiropractor Dr. Brent Tidwell says he’s seen truckers who are taking insulin for diabetes who had been passed illegally on previous physicals by other examiners. “It’s kind of scary that these [doctors] who don’t know what they’re doing are passing people,” he says. “There’s probably 20 percent who don’t have a clue what they’re doing and have never read the regs.”
Chiropractor Dr. Michael Megehee says trucker accident investigations will examine if the doctor did a thorough exam of the driver. FMCSA will have the authority to go undercover. “FMCSA investigators will be trained to go into doctors’ offices and present themselves as a truck driver for medical exam,” he says.
Smith says carriers should end up with a “healthier work force.” He says he foresees additional driver testing to measure functional capacity, breathing ability and hearing. “Companies are trying to mitigate workmen’s comp and accidents,” he says.