The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has denied the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Association its request for a delay in the effective date of the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners rule.
In a May 22 letter from FMCSA head Anne Ferro, the agency told OOIDA that the registry’s recent growth — from 10,000 at the time of OOIDA’s April 8 petition for the delay to the current 21,700 — and the lack of a single deadline for all drivers give the agency sufficient reason to deny the request.
The rule took effect May 21, and any driver due for medical certification must obtain it from a medical examiner from the agency’s registry. Current medical certifications are still good through the expiration date listed on the cards, however.
OOIDA petitioned the agency in April for the delay, saying a shortage of medical examiners could sideline drivers’ operations and cost them time and money searching for an examiner and not being able to work. When OOIDA made its request, only about 10,000 examiners had been approved by the agency and were in the registry.
In the weeks leading up to the May 21 effective date, the agency more than doubled that number, and it expects to add 2,500 more in the coming weeks, the agency said in its letter to OOIDA.
FMCSA projected in its rule it would need 40,000 medical examiners in the registry to adequately cover the 4.4 million drivers subject to the rule. However, the agency says it didn’t need them by the time the rule started.
“The vast majority of interstate truck and bus drivers will not need to obtain a medical certificate from a healthcare provider on the [registry] for a significant amount of time, and in many cases, for more than a year,” the agency wrote in its denial letter. “Second, the agency believes there are sufficient certified examiners on the National Registry.”
The American Trucking Associations also filed a request with the agency to delay the effective date of the rule. Its request was filed when there were roughly 13,000 examiners in the registry.
As the rule has been made effective, the association’s request was not heeded. A letter to ATA from FMCSA has not yet been made public.
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.