As of May 21, all physicals for commercial drivers must be performed by a qualified health professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, stated the U.S. Department of Transportation. Today NSTA told its members that its request for an extension of this deadline was denied by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
In its announcement, the school bus contractors association noted that it wrote to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro in both March and May requesting a delay in the May 21, 2014 requirement that all commercial motor vehicle driver physicals be conducted by certified medical examiners.
Yet their request was denied for the following reasons: Only drivers with medical certificates due to expire on or shortly after May 21, 2014 must immediately obtain a medical certificate from a certified examiner on the registry; the agency believes there are sufficient certified examiners on the registry — 21,710 currently and another 2,500 soon to be added; and, last, Ferro said there have been no changes in the physical qualifications standards for CMV drivers as a result of the National Registry rule.
The regulation affects all interstate truck and bus drivers. They must pass a USDOT medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their CDL and legally operate a commercial motor vehicle.
Generally, most route school bus drivers are exempt, but some private school bus companies must comply.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is "encouraged" to see the national registry go into effect, as it addresses four recommendations the board made to target health, sleep deprivation, vision and hearing problems of commercial drivers. The registry also sets baseline training and testing standards for medical professionals who perform commercial driver physicals and for the tracking of driver medical certificates.
"Safety is our highest priority, and it is vital that every commercial truck and bus driver be qualified, alert and focused when they are behind the wheel," said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Medical examiners equipped with a thorough understanding of DOT fitness standards will be able to ensure that commercial drivers meet the health requirements necessary to operate on our highways and roads, thereby strengthening safety for every traveler."
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which implemented and oversees the program, said approximately 22,000 medical professionals have completed necessary coursework and testing to be listed on the registry. Meanwhile, another 27,000 have started the process. FMCSA also said current medical certificates will remain valid until the expiration date shown on individual driver cards. Then, the driver will need to identify a certified medical examiner on the registry to perform their next phyisical exam.
"The online database is easily searchable so drivers can schedule their medical certification exam with a qualified healthcare professional wherever they might be — coast to coast, including Hawaii and Alaska," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro.
Certified medical examiners are required to "maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and recertification testing," according to an FMCSA statement. Examiners who do not meet the ongoing federal standards will be removed.