OOIDA petitions FMCSA to delay driver compliance with medical examiner rule

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Updated Apr 9, 2014

medicalThe Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has filed a legal petition asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to push back the compliance date of the medical examiner registry rule until more agency-certified examiners are available for truck operators.

In its rule, made final in 2012, the agency projected 40,000 medical examiners would be registered by the May 21 compliance date, a number the agency said would be sufficient to provide certification for the estimated 4.4 million drivers who fall under the rule’s guidelines.

In its petition, OOIDA says that by March 28 only a little more than 10,000 examiners had been certified by FMCSA and added to the agency’s registry — a number the association says will make it difficult for drivers to maintain a current medical examiner’s certificate, potentially sidelining their operations and driving up costs for those that do, OOIDA says.

FMCSA in an email to CCJ April 8, however, said that more than 13,000 examiners have passed the agency’s test and are in the registry. It also said that 4,200 examiners are scheduled to take the test and another 19,600 have signed up to start the process.

“FMCSA is closely monitoring the growing list and locations of certified medical examiners to ensure that an adquate number are registered by the May 21 deadline,” said agency spokesperson Marissa Padilla in an email.

Padilla added that given that “most drivers” won’t need to seek medical recertification immediately after the May 21 deadline, there’s still time to adequately fill the rolls of the agency’s registry of approved examiners.

OOIDA, however, contends in its petition that the number of examiners in the registry presents “good cause” to delay the compliance date, and the agency has legal precedent to push it back, based on the causes laid out in its petition, the association says.

The association also says FMCSA also would be able to legally sidestep the rulemaking process to issue the compliance extension.

As drivers are required to renew their medical certification once every two years, 2.2 million drivers must be examined each year, OOIDA’s petition notes, and FMCSA calculated in its 2012 rule that 40,000 medical examiners could provide roughly 75 examinations per year for an estimated 3 million exams.

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The lack of examiners now, however, does not satisfy the rule’s intentions, OOIDA says.

“Many drivers will simply be unable to find registered examiners to certify them before their prior certification expires. This will cause interruptions in their employability, frustrate their ability to conduct their businesses, and do damage to their relationship with their employer or other transportation partners who rely upon them. This alone is sufficient good cause to delay implementation of the compliance date,” according to OOIDA’s petition.

OOIDA also points to longer appointment wait times and the need for drivers to travel farther to find an examiner as problems with the lack of registered examiners.

The association does not specify a new date of compliance, only saying it shouldn’t be “until a sufficient number of medical examiners are on the registry for the program to operate as described in the regulatory record.”

Click here to read OOIDA’s full petition.

The agency earlier this year announced a delay to part of the rule, pushing back the date to which drivers must continue to carry paper copies of their medical certification to Jan. 30, 2015, from Jan. 30, 2014.