Safety & Compliance

Cardiac Tests Dropped from New Medical Exam Form

October 05, 2000

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has dropped specific reference to ECG and EST tests in its new medical examination form, but says it will propose the establishment of a medical panel to review and make recommendations for amending qualifying standards and tests for drivers with cardiac conditions.

A proposed new form included a space to record results of optional testing for coronary artery disease. Several industry groups, including the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, expressed concern that the specified tests don't accurately detect coronary problems. Moreover, adding a space for those tests results might be misinterpreted to mean that the government had made them a mandatory requirement.
After considering the comments, FMCSA replaced references to specific tests with a space for describing and recording “any optional tests a medical examiner considers necessary to assess a driver’s physical qualification.” The agency also said that screening individuals for coronary diseases in certain occupations, such as truck and bus drivers, “may be justified because of possible benefits to public safety.”
Another change is an expanded health history section. FMCSA did make some modifications to the proposed section after opponents argued that some of the vague or irrelevant information requested could unjustly result in a driver’s disqualification.
In response to privacy concerns, the agency acknowledged that federal regulations do not specifically prohibit employers from obtaining copies of the medical form, but noted that employers are bound by federal and state privacy laws.
The new form, which medical examiners must start using by Nov. 6, is intended to be easier to use and to reflect current medical terminology and procedures. It’s also supposed to be a self-contained document, including all relevant information necessary for the physical exam and certification.
Truck and Bus drivers' medical exams came under fire last year when a charter bus driver was discovered to be in extremely poor health following a crash that killed 22 people outside New Orleans in 1999. The National Transportation Safety Board devoted a hearing to the issue in January. (See "NTSB Hearing: Holes in Medical Certification Program," Jan. 21 2000.)
The final rule, including a sample copy of the new form, appeared in the Oct. 5 Federal Register and can be accessed on the Internet at www.nara.gov/fedreg.

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