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Carriers say delays in driver medical certifications are top issue with registry rule

Doctor writing down paperwork for a medical exam

Carriers that participated in ATRI’s study on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners said delays in medical certifications for drivers topped their list of concerns with the medical exam process.

Carriers that participated in a recent American Transportation Research Institute survey about the impact of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners identified certification delays as their top concern since the registry was implemented in 2014.

To be listed on the NRCME, medical examiners are required to pass a test so they can then issue medical certificates to truckers. ATRI, which conducted the survey with the Mayo Clinic on the NRCME in September and October, found that requests for additional testing on drivers delays the certification of these drivers.

The survey found that 5.9 percent of drivers who participated were not issued their medical certificate on the day of their exam, with the primary reason being that more testing or medical records were requested by the medical examiner, followed by the driver having a condition that required treatment before certification.

Carriers also identified driver confusion on how regulatory changes affect their ability to hold a medical certificate, as well as unqualified and incompetent medical examiners performing DOT physicals, as other top concerns relating to the medical certification process.

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Additionally, of the 300-plus carriers that participated in the survey, just over three-quarters said they pay for driver medical certification, and nearly half (49 percent) said they mandate which clinic drivers must go to for their medical exams.

In the portion of the survey answered by drivers, ATRI found that the cost of DOT physicals has risen since the 2014 implementation of the registry. ATRI says drivers don’t believe the quality of the exams has increased despite the increased costs, and many drivers (nearly 40 percent) who responded to the survey said their costs for a medical exam range between $75 and $124.

The study also found that when certified medical examiners (CMEs) are required to renew their certifications, the impact of these costs could be exacerbated. According to ATRI’s research, 15.3 percent of CMEs said they have quit performing DOT physicals or will quit when they have to renew, which ATRI says could reduce access to DOT physicals for drivers and drive up costs.

Of the drivers who participated in the study, less than 20 percent said they used the NRCME to find a medical examiner, and nearly 48 percent said they were told by their employer where to go.

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Matt Cole is an Associate Editor for CCJ and Overdrive. Reach him at mattcole@randallreilly.com.