Seminar presents CDL medical certification topics

| July 23, 2010

Though health-related conditions can take you off the road and put your CDL in jeopardy, steps and treatments can be taken to ensure medical certification, said Dr. Maggi Gunnels, director of the Office of Medical Programs for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

In an online seminar, hosted by Overdrive‘s sister publication, Truckers News, “Health Regulations and Your CDL,” July 22, Gunnels said the required biannual exam for certification covers a driver’s health history, vision, hearing, blood pressure and vital signs. A urine test is also required, she said.

High blood pressure is one of the more common conditions that can prevent drivers from passing the medical certification, she said. However, only drivers diagnosed with Stage 3 hypertension are disqualified from driving.

Stage 1 and 2 diagnoses are required to have annual and quarterly certifications, respectively. Stage 3 hypertension is classified as any blood pressure measured at 180/110mmHG or above.

Gunnels said no regulations would disqualify drivers for weight, body-mass index or neck size. “These are factors that are indicators that are evaluated during an examination by practitioners. But it’s unrealistic to expect us to set specific regulations about signs and symptoms like that,” she said.

Obstructive sleep apnea regulations are being worked into a broader set of rules categorized under respiratory system conditions. It is included in a regulation that says drivers cannot have a respiratory condition that interferes with safe driving, Gunnels said.

If sleep apnea has been diagnosed and treatment has been prescribed, drivers must be able to demonstrate they’ve been treated to pass a medical certification exam.

Drivers diagnosed with diabetes can work with an exemption and a waiver if they are being treated with insulin. During the exemption process, however, drivers will have to stay off the road for roughly a month, Gunnels said, while paperwork is cleared.

More than 40,000 examiners around the country are qualified to perform the medical certification exam, Gunnels said. Medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners also are generally qualified. FMSCA is working on building an interactive map on its website to locate qualified examiners.

Other health-related topics:
• Vision: Visual acuity of at least 20/40 in each eye with or without corrective lenses; distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 in both eyes with or without corrective lenses; field of vision of at least 70 degrees; must have the ability to recognize colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green and amber.
• Prosthetic devices: Amputees can drive if they have no other medical disqualifications, can successfully pass a road test and a skills performance evaluation, and wear a prosthetic device.
• Medications: Drivers can use drugs prescribed by medical practitioners who are familiar with their history and duties, as long as the substance does not hamper the driver’s ability to operate safely.
• Gunnels said state and company regulations sometimes can be more strict than federal rules.