FMCSA appoints medical review panel

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The federal government has appointed five physicians to look over a range of medical issues that affect drivers, including conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease that may prevent truckers from getting or retaining a commercial drivers license.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board will help the agency revamp its physical qualifications for commercial motor vehicle drivers, providing guidance on scientific and medical standards. In particular, the panel will help FMCSA decide if its regulations need adjusting based on new research.

Some of the agency’s rules are based on studies more than 30 years old. Over the last 20 years, FMCSA and its predecessor agencies have appointed medical review boards to look at specific issues. But the new board will serve two years and look at all of the agencies’ medical programs and regulations, an FMCSA spokesman said.

Drivers who have been disqualified because of their medical condition say the agency’s regulations are out of step with current treatment regimes and modern medicine. And FMCSA has been sued successfully on several occasions because of the application of its medical exemption programs.

First up on the agenda: drug and alcohol issues and diabetes, even though FMCSA revamped its insulin-treated diabetes exemption program last summer. The board will study sleep issues in the second quarter of 2006 before moving on to cardiovascular, vision and hearing qualifications.

The panel includes doctors with a range of specialties from toxicology to neurology. The appointees are:

  • Dr. Gunnar Andersson, senior vice president for medical affairs, Rush University Medical Center, and professor and chair of orthopedic surgery;
  • Dr. Michael Greenberg, associate director for medical toxicology, Drexel University College of Medicine and director of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship Program;
  • Dr. Kurt Hegmann, director and associate professor of Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of Utah;
  • Dr. Barbara Phillips, chair of the National Sleep Foundation and professor at the University of Kentucky College of Health in the department of preventive medicine; and
  • Dr. Matthew Rizzo, professor of neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine.