FMCSA's Gunnels fields questions at health summit

Dr. Mary Gunnels responds to a question from an attendee at the HTAA Healthy Trucking Summit. Photo by Randy Grider.

ATLANTA — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Office of Medical Programs Director Dr. Mary Gunnels in a Feb. 3 session provided attendees of the Healthy Trucking Association of America‘s Healthy Trucking Summit an outline of upcoming medical regulations and answered questions about potential sleep apnea regulations and CSA 2010.

While some type of sleep apnea regulation may be on the horizon, Gunnels said due to the nature of the process, it’ll likely be at least a couple of years. Even if that does happen in the future, “are we going to mandate screening and testing?” Gunnels queried. “I don’t think we know yet. I think we’re going to propose that it probably will be screened for. … But I don’t know how detailed we’ll get in terms of regulation or mandates.”

As for CSA 2010, Gunnels said implementation is already under way with test programs already in place in several states and a goal of full launch by summer.

“Looking at the preliminary data coming back from states, there are a lot of drivers that are coming up unsafe,” Gunnels said. Does that mean more drivers will be taken off the road? Not necessarily, Gunnels said, because it’s “very rare” for a medical certification issue to result in out-of-service status.

Another upcoming regulation is the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, which is pending final rule, and the CDL Information System rule passed in January 2010 but will take several years to fully implement. The National Registry will create a registration system for medical examiners who are qualified to provide medical CDL certification, and the CDL Information System is designed to eventually eliminate the need for paper CDL certificates by making a computerized version available to law enforcement and other government officials.

Gunnels said she also hopes to see updated regulations and/or recommendations pertaining to issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and epilepsy, among others. “Everything’s fair,” she said, “but everything’s from before 2000.” An update would allow for changes to be made based on newer research and medications.

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The HTAA’s second annual Healthy Trucking Summit is being held in Atlanta, Feb. 2-4.