The American Trucking Associations has joined the chorus asking the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to push back the effective date of its National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners until more examiners have been added to its rolls.
The rule’s effective date is this week — May 21 — and all drivers who need medical certification or recertification are required to receive it from an FMCSA-certified examiner after that date.
ATA President and CEO Bill Graves sent FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro a letter May 8 saying that while the association supports the rule, some areas in the country may not have enough certified examiners for the number of drivers that live in the area. Graves asked Ferro for a six-month extension of the effective date.
“Not only will the registry lack sufficient numbers of examiners in sum, but the system will be hindered by the inadequate geographic coverage,” Graves wrote in the letter about the May 21 deadline. “Without an adequate supply of medical examiners appropriately dispersed around the country…drivers and motor carriers may be unable to fully comply without excessive expense and costly delays,” the letter states.
FMCSA spokesperson Duane DeBruyne said May 17 that the agency now has 21,600 examiners in its registry — up from the 15,000 that were in the rolls when Graves sent his May 8 letter — and another 4,000 are set to take the test this week. “FMCSA is closely monitoring the growing list and locations of certified medical examiners to ensure that an adequate number are registered by the May 21 deadline,” DeBruyne said.
In its rule, the agency set a target of 40,000 examiners to cover the needs of the 4.4 million drivers subject to the rule. Drivers need medical certification every two years, which the rule does not change.
“It is also important to emphasize that most drivers will not need a new physical exam immediately following the May 21 deadline. Their medical certificates will continue to be valid until until the expiration date that is shown on the card,” DeBruyne said.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association made a similar request to FMCSA in March, asking for a delay in the May 21 date until more examiners could be added to the registry. It too cited high costs and unnecessary downtime spent traveling to an approved examiner.
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.