The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed a legal petition asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to push back the compliance date of the medical examiner registry rule until more agency-certified examiners are available for truck operators to utilize for medical certifications.
The rule, made final in 2012, requires that after May 21, 2014, drivers be medically certified by an FMCSA-certified medical examiner when they’re due for recertification.
In its rule, the agency projected 40,000 medical examiners would become registered by the compliance date, to provide certification for the FMCSA-estimated 4.4 million drivers who fall under the rule’s guidelines.
However, OOIDA says only a little more than 10,000 examiners have been certified by FMCSA by March 28, which the association says in its petition will make it difficult for drivers to find medical examiners by their recertification date — potentially sidelining their operation — and will drive up costs for those that do.
“This presents ‘good cause’ to justify a change to the compliance date,” OOIDA’s petition reads, and the agency has legal precedent to delay compliance, based on the causes laid out in its petition, the association says.
FMCSA also would be able to legally sidestep the rulemaking process to issue the compliance extension, OOIDA says.
As drivers are required to renew their medical certification once every two years, 2.2 million drivers must be examined each year, OOIDA’s petition notes, and FMCSA calculated the 40,000 medical examiners would suffice, calculating roughly 75 examinations per year for an estimated 3 million yearly exams.
The lack or examiners now, however, will not suffice, OOIDA says.
“Many drivers will simply be unable to find registered examiners to certify them before their prior certification expires. This will cause interruptions in their employability, frustrate their ability to conduct their businesses, and do damage to their relationship with their employer or other transportation partners who rely upon them. This alone is sufficient good cause to delay implementation of the compliance date,” according to OOIDA’s petition.
OOIDA also points to longer appointment wait times and the need to travel farther to find an examiner as other problems likely to stem from the lack of registered examiners.
The association does not specify a new date of compliance, only saying it shouldn’t be “until a sufficient number of medical examiners are on the registry for the program to operate as described in the regulatory record.”
The agency earlier this year announced a delay to part of the rule, pushing back the date through which drivers must continue to carry paper copies of their medical certification to Jan. 30, 2015, from Jan. 30, 2014.
Note: Response from FMCSA will be added when it becomes available.