FMCSA updates to medical certification, training explained

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on November 9, 2015

NAPT Summit attendees were brought up to date on some changes made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to certification and training in a session held on Monday.

Larry Minor, the associate administrator on policy for the FMCSA, explained the updates made to the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners in “Understanding Medical DOT and Fit for Duty Requirements.” A final rule was issued in April for the new medical card program to track and review the distribution of medical examiners across the U.S. on a daily basis, and it allows cards to be issued electronically and downloaded by the state agency.

Medical examiners must now complete a training course and testing, and submit medical certifications for each driver they examine on a daily basis. Additionally, all medical cards must be issued by a medical examiner listed in the National Registry. The rule is expected to decrease the risk of falsifications.

The FMCSA also has simplified requirements for drivers with insulin-treated diabetes and mild sleep apnea, Minor said.

A driver using insulin hadn’t been able to get a medical certification unless they received an exemption from the FMCSA, but now, if the treating clinician and medical examiner agree that the driver is managing the condition, they can receive certification.

“We know we have a [large] population of insulin-dependent bus drivers not disclosing that they have diabetes,” Minor said. “Instead of [having them] remain in the shadows, we’ve cleaned up the regulations so that they don’t lose employment and income. That’s better for everyone.”

Minor told attendees that if a driver with obstructive sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine and has verification that it is working for them, that could be sufficient for medical certification.

The FMCSA will gather information on cases of moderate to severe sleep apnea and potential economic impact and safety benefits from regulatory actions that would result in workers in safety-sensitive positions who exhibit multiple risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea being evaluated by a healthcare professional who has expertise in sleep disorders.

Another change is to the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, with the final rule to be issued in spring 2016. Motor carriers, medical review officers, substance abuse professionals and third-party officers would be required to report positive drug and alcohol test results, test refusals, negative return-to-duty test results, and information on follow-up testing. Motor carriers would also need to report knowledge of citations for driving a commercial motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. That information would go into a database, to be used as a tool for managers when hiring new drivers, Minor said.

Driver training is another area that is seeing changes. Prospective drivers must now go through 30 hours of behind-the-wheel training for a class A CDL and 15 hours of behind-the-wheel training for a class B CDL. As with medical examiners, all driver trainers used must be listed on a Training Provider Registry. Training providers must submit training certificates to the FMCSA. Minor assured audience members that they just need to certify their training program meets the FMCSA requirements and agree to send training certificates to the organization.

The reason behind the change, Minor said, is that Congress is looking to get rid of CDL mills.

“We’re taking the luck out of it and making sure that all applicants get well-structured training,” he explained.

The FMCSA will also soon revisit vision requirements, Minor added.

Related Topics: CDL, driver fatigue, driver wellness

Nicole Schlosser Executive Editor
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