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Truckers must seek out a USDOT-certified medical examiner for their physicals

By on January 2, 2015
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Starting in May 2014, commercial truck drivers have been required to have their USDOT medical exam performed by a medical professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). Road King spoke to Chuck Horan, Director of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Office of Carrier, Driver and Vehicle Safety Standards and Medical Programs about what drivers need to know about the NRCME.

Q What was the reason for creating this kind of national registry?

A Previously, any state-licensed medical practitioner was able to perform a DOT exam and certify that a CDL holder was medically qualified to operate a truck. But not all medical professionals had a good understanding of the physical rigors required of drivers, and may not have been fully aware of USDOT medical qualification regulations.

We have seen tragic crashes attributed to a medical condition that should have prevented the driver from getting behind the wheel in the first place. To remedy that, the registry was proposed in 2012. Since May of last year, anyone who wants to perform a USDOT medical exam must complete specialized training and pass a test.

The NRCME changes only one thing for drivers: They need to make sure that their medical examiner is listed on the website.

Q Some drivers are concerned that this new requirement could lead them to lose their CDL. Is that a legitimate fear?

A Let me emphasize that the FMCSA medical regulations have not changed one iota. Everything is exactly the same except for one thing — a CDL holder must get their medical card from someone who is listed on the NRCME website.

I can imagine a situation where a driver has seen a family physician for years, but that doctor never knew all of the DOT medical regulations or fully comprehended the physical challenges of long-haul truck driving.

This same driver now goes to someone on the list who has completed the NRCME training. Maybe the driver displays symptoms indicating epilepsy. The family physician may not have known that epilepsy is a disqualifying condition. The NRCME examiner knows it is and will have it checked out.

Q Is there anything a driver can do to prepare for an exam?

A First, and most important, drivers need to check the NRCME website to make sure the medical professional they intend to see is listed. Unfortunately, we have seen some cases where drivers do what they think is right — but fail to check the NRCME website first. The driver goes to get their CDL renewed, but it is rejected because the examiner is not on the registry. It could be an innocent mistake. The examiner is just not aware of the certification process.

But it may not be an innocent mistake at all. It could be intentional fraud by scammers who conduct bogus exams. These individuals just want your money. So beware — and always check the NRCME website.

As step number two, if drivers have ailments that are being treated by a physician, they should bring all their medical documentation to the exam. This step will save time and help the medical examiner make an accurate assessment.

Q Has there been an impact on driver health as a result of these changes?

A If a driver has insulin-treated diabetes, that is cause for being disqualified as an interstate truck driver. But, thanks to modern medical science, there are a number of commercial drivers who have well-managed diabetes and have proven their ability to safely operate a large truck, via a state-issued, restricted intrastate CDL. FMCSA has seen an uptick in our medical waiver program, including vision and hearing. I attribute that to medical professionals who are more fully apprised of opportunities to recommend drivers for a waiver.

Q If a driver has a doctor they feel comfortable with, how do they get them on the registry?

A The driver should encourage their physician to take the steps to be listed on the website.

It’s a straightforward process. They register on the NRCME website, we confirm that they hold a state-issued medical license, and then they take the training. The pace is left up to them. Once they complete the training, they are tested. Within a matter of days of successfully completing the test, their name is added to the website.

There’s no reason for the entire process to take any more than a week or two provided the medical professional makes the necessary time available.

The NRCME website contains information for both drivers and medical professionals. If someone cannot find an answer to their question, they can submit questions online or call.

To find a USDOT-certified medical examiner, visit nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov

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