The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is reminding the trucking industry Wednesday marks the start of new regulations requiring that all U.S. DOT physicals must be performed by a qualified health professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

The new program sets baseline training and testing standards for medical professionals who perform commercial driver physicals and for tracking of driver medical certificates.

Approximately 22,000 medical professionals have completed the coursework and testing and are listed on the National Registry and another 27,000 have begun the certification process, according to FMCSA. 

Current medical certificates held by commercial driver’s license holders will continue to be valid until the expiration date that is shown on the card. Only then will the driver need to seek a certified medical examiner to perform their new examination.

“We have certified thousands of health professionals to conduct driver exams, with more being added every day,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “The online database is easily searchable so drivers can schedule their medical certification exam with a qualified healthcare professional wherever they might be.”

The start came despite calls from the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and others that FMCSA delay the registry implementation for six months.

ATA said its chief concern is the belief there are an insufficient number of medical examiners available to meet expected driver demand. “Drivers who live in rural, underserved areas may experience additional challenges as they look for nearby certified medical examiners,” it said in a statement on Wednesday. “In some cases, drivers may be required to travel long distances at considerable cost. Some drivers may also see higher than usual prices too, as a result of the limited supply of medical examiners.”

“The American Trucking Associations supports the registry as a way to ensure medical examiners serving the industry have a broad understanding of the challenges truck drivers face every day,” said Dave Osiecki, executive vice president and chief of national advocacy. “It is unfortunate, however, that FMCSA declined to take a more pragmatic approach to ensuring the registry was sufficiently populated by granting ATA’s request for a reasonable, short delay.”

A U.S. DOT medical exam looks at a range of conditions to assess a driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory and muscular functions, vision, and hearing.

All interstate commercial truck and bus drivers must pass a U.S. DOT medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their CDL, and legally operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Medical examiners on the National Registry will also be required to maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and recertification testing and those that fail to maintain federal standards will be removed.

More information is on the FMCSA website.