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New Tractor-Trailer Medical Exam Requirement Goes Into Law This Month

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is an arm of the US Department of Transportation.  Its primary mission statement is to help prevent tractor-trailer accidents by regulating interstate motor carriers and truck drivers.

medical examOne of the requirements placed on the trucking industry by the FMCSA is that truck drivers meet certain physical health conditions in order to be able to operate a big rig on the interstate.  A complete physical is performed to make sure no underlying serious health issues are at play that could cause the individual to be unsafe while driving a tractor-trailer.  FMCSA conducts drug and alcohol testing.  Looks for sleep apnea issues.  And otherwise tries to ensure that the driver can operate heavy equipment for hours at a time while staying attentive and alert.

We have seen a number of tractor-trailer wreck cases which have involved drive fatigue because the driver was medically unfit to operate an eighteen wheeler for 8 plus hours every day.  This despite the fact that his medical examinations did not reveal any health issues that would make him unfit in the eyes of the FMCSA to be certified to drive a commercial vehicle.

Recently, the FMCSA has passed a new regulation to try to combat this problem and tighten the reins on unfit drivers.  Starting May 21, 2014, all commercial drivers wanting to obtain or renew certification to operate an interstate tractor-trailer must obtain a passing medical exam from a physician certified to conduct the exam.  The FMCSA has set up under this regulation what is called the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.  If a driver is caught obtaining a medical exam by someone not registered with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, that driver will not obtain certification.

In order to become a member of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, a physician must obtain specific training from the FMCSA on how to properly conduct a DOT medical examination and successfully pass a test on FMCSA physical qualification standards.  As stated on the FMCSA’s website, the mission of the National Registry is as follows:

  • Ensure examiners understand the medical standards in the FMCSA’s Regulations and related guidance and how they apply to CMV drivers
  • Maintain ongoing competency of medical examiners through training, testing, certification and re-certification
  • Promote public confidence in the quality of the medical examinations of CMV drivers
  • Ensure that the list of certified medical examiners is easily accessible

Just yesterday a catastrophic tractor-trailer accident occurred in Atlanta that appears to be caused by a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel.  Hopefully the FMCSA’s new regulation going into affect this month will help make the trucking industry and therefore our roads much safer.

Certainly if you or a loved one have been injured by a negligent tractor-trailer driver after May 21, 2014, your lawyer will want to verify that the driver was properly medically certified as fit to operate a tractor-trailer rig.

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