By Jan. 30, 2014, over-the-road truckers will no longer have to carry a copy of their medical certification with them. That’s because the medical certification will have to be on file with the state where their CDL was issued. The exception will be for drivers who qualify for medical exemptions. They will still be required to keep the documents in their trucks.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the goal behind this latest federal rulemaking, which officially goes into effect at the end of this month, is to identify medically unqualified drivers and prevent them from operating on the nation’s highways. Drivers who cannot obtain a clean medical certificate may have their CDL downgraded.
States have until Jan. 30, 2012, to put their systems in place to comply with the self-certification rule.
Some may look at this regulation as further meddling into the privacy of hard-working individuals. Others will view it as a safeguard against drivers with dangerous medical conditions that could lead to disaster on the road.
Barring excessive time or expense to comply with the new rule, we support its intent. Many drivers suffer from a myriad of health problems including obesity, hypertension, heart problems, diabetes, sleep apnea, arthritis and so forth. It is just during the past few years that the trucking industry and federal regulators have begun to seriously deal with the problem of driver health. And more rule proposals have recently been issued, including setting uniform testing standards for medical reviewers. This proposal would create a National Registry of medical examiners who are qualified to conduct examinations of interstate truck and bus drivers.
This month, Truckers News looks at medical threats to drivers’ CDLs (see “Health Challenges,” p. 20). It is part of the continuing emphasis on driver health topics we took up more than two years ago with the Fit for the Road series. During that time, we’ve been inspired by drivers looking for help with their respective ailments and conditions and the many success stories. We’ve tried our best to provide experts and point drivers to resources to help them.
I’m also a regular guest on Sirius’ Loading Dock show on Mondays. Host Mark Willis and I have fielded calls from drivers who have talked about the stresses of the job and how it affects their health. We’ve discussed resources available to them such as fleet wellness programs and others.
But overall, the trucking industry, like much of the American public, needs to realize that health is ultimately an individual responsibility. Health costs are out of control and a lack of insurance hampers many seeking medical attention, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying to do something about what you can control. What kind, and how much, food you put in your body is up to you. Poor eating habits are one part of the equation. Couple that with a sedentary lifestyle and stress and it often results in obesity and its many related complications.
Many health issues can be controlled or prevented with good diet and exercise. It takes discipline. I’ve struggled with the discipline factor myself trying to watch what I eat and exercise more to lose a few pounds. I have to continuously remind myself that I must change my bad eating habits and daily routine to accomplish this. It’s not always easy with work and family obligations.
My wife, although not overweight, is a type 1 diabetic and a source of inspiration for me. She must constantly control her diet to keep her blood glucose levels in check. Reading nutrition labels is an obsession for her, and, thankfully, it has opened my eyes to the junk we put in our bodies.
We encourage all drivers to do what they can to adopt the healthiest lifestyle possible. The feds’ attention to health is not going away. And it shouldn’t. Truckers with serious health problems put not only themselves and their families at risk but everyone who shares the road with them.
If you are truly passionate about your profession and your loved ones, pay closer attention to your health. Don’t look at the 2014 self-certification rule as another intrusion. Use it for motivation to protect your most valuable possession – yourself.