New Year Brings Up New Medical Certification Regulations

by Jana Ritter - Published: 1/02/2013

Currently, any medical doctor, chiropractor, doctor of osteopathy, advanced practice nurse, physician assistant or other health care professional authorized by their state can perform the medical examination required for a commercial driver's license. But as of May 21, 2014, new federal regulations will require these same health care professionals to be certified with specific training and passing a test on their compentency to  administer the examinations.


While many trucking companies are in favor of a more verifiable process, some truck drivers see it as over regulation of their industry and likely to pull more experienced drivers off the road.  Perhaps even more problematic for drivers, are additional initiatives announced by the safety administration last August, amending regulations to require that interstate commercial driver's license holders provide copies of their medical certification to state driver licensing agencies and conducting random checks for drivers' medical certificates at safety audits, roadside inspections and compliance reviews to deter fraudulent certificates.

But according to the FMCSA, these regulations have not only been created to enhance safety on the roads, but to also improve the health of truck drivers nationwide. Dr. Patrick Hartley, medical director of the Occupational Medicine Clinic at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, says that bus and truck drivers are subject to the same medical conditions as those in other professions, but unfortunately their occupation makes it specifically difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. A 2007 study by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that 86 percent of truckers were overweight; of those, 66 percent were obese. Dr. Hartley adds another valid concern about the resulting health problems going undetected. “For many drivers, the only time they see a health care professional is every two years when they need to get their medical certificate.”

The new examinations will hopefully provide medical examiners with a better opportunity to spot potential health care problems that might otherwise go undetected. Dr. Joseph Kennedy, who administers physicals for commercial driver's licenses in Cedar Rapids,  Iowa, believes the new certification requirement will also lead to more consistent medical examinations. “You can go to 10 different doctors and you will have 10 different viewpoints on how long someone should be certified to drive,” Kennedy said. “I think it will be a good thing because it will give us clearer guidelines. Right now, no one is overseeing us and once this regulation takes effect, someone will look over our physicals and make sure we're doing the right thing.”

While truck drivers are also concerned there will be a shortage of certified examiners, Brenda Neville, president of the Iowa Motor Truck Association, sees the development of a national registry of certified physicians allowing more effiency and consistency among medical examiners. “At the end of the day, owners want safe and healthy drivers behind the wheel of their trucks. Hopefully, the health care professionals who will be listed on the national registry will all be doing the same thing, “ Neville says. “The owners of small and large companies that I've talked with are very fine with it.”