Photo courtesy of J.J. Keller

Photo courtesy of J.J. Keller

A recent rule on the medical qualifications of commercial drivers has many on both sides of the examination table raising eyebrows.

To begin, the medical standards have not changed as a result of this rule, nor has the training/certification of the medical professionals that perform the exam as required under the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME).  Only the recordkeeping surrounding the medical exam was updated.

The FMCSA’s new Medical Examination Report (MER) form contains much of the same information being collected under the current MER, but in a different format. The agency removed detailed instructions to the medical examiner (ME), information on the driver’s role, and medical advisory criteria from the MER. Instead, FMCSA placed those specific items in guidance documents that MEs consult when performing examinations.

The FMCSA also revised the medical examiner’s certificate (MEC) to indicate whether the driver is certified in accordance with the standards set for interstate drivers or those set for intrastate drivers that have variances from the federal standard. This replaces the designation of interstate or intrastate on the current MEC.

For the ME, this means using the new version of the MER and MEC as soon as December 22, 2015. MEs will also be expected to use the electronic version of the MER via the NRCME portal beginning June 22, 2018, and transmit the results of the exam directly to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) by midnight (local time) of the calendar day following the exam.  This transmission will include the results for both commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders and non-CDL holders. FMCSA will then transmit CDL holder data to the Commercial Driver’s License Information System (CDLIS) for the states to use on driving reports.

What can non-CDL drivers expect?

For drivers that do not hold CDLs, the process will see little change. They will continue to find an ME appearing on the NRCME. Following the exam, the drivers will be issued a new MEC to carry on their person. In order to assist the ME in communicating the licensing status of the driver to the FMCSA, the drivers will be asked if they currently hold a CDL.

For non-CDL holders, employers will continue to document that the ME performing the exam appears on the NRCME, and retain a copy of the MEC in the Driver’s Qualification (DQ) file for three years.

Recordkeeping for CDL holders and their motor carriers

Until the implementation date of the final rule, it is status quo for CDL holders and their motor carriers with regard to recordkeeping.

Before June 22, 2018, CDL holders will continue to:

  • Select an ME from the NRCME.
  • Receive an MEC following the exam.
  • Submit a copy of the MEC to the state licensing office within 5 days in order to avoid any glitches in his or her licensing. The state will have 10 days to process the CDL holder’s medical status to have it appear on his or her motor vehicle record (MVR).
  • Carry their medical examiner’s certificate for 15 days following the exam.

Until the final rule is implemented, employers of CDL holders will continue to retain a copy of the MEC in the DQ file up to 15 days following the exam, allowing enough time for it to appear on the MVR. After 15 days, the employer would need the MVR showing the medical status. The employer must also continue to verify that the ME that performed the exam appears on the NRCME.

As of June 22, 2018:

  • The CDL holder will be given a copy of the MEC, but he or she will not have to carry it nor submit a copy to his or her state of licensing. The medical information will be transmitted to the FMCSA directly by the ME, and FMCSA will then transmit the results to the state. Within a day or two following the exam, the driver’s medical status will appear on the driving record (according to the final rule).
  • The employer no longer has to temporarily retain the MEC in the DQ file since the information will appear on the MVR within a couple of days following the exam. Since the transmission originates from someone within the NRCME portal, there is also no need to verify the ME’s credentials.

If the FMCSA communicates that a driver has been denied medical certification, the state will facilitate a “not certified” status as soon as the driver’s information is received. It will also begin the process of “downgrading” a CDL immediately after this notification.

With the automation of the process, FMCSA hopes to reduce the recordkeeping burden on the part of the commercial driver, the motor carrier, and the state agency. The employer no longer has to keep track of who did and did not submit his or her MEC to the state licensing office.  As long as the driver goes for his or her physical, the MVR will show the disposition.

This article from J.J. Keller was used with permission.It was authored under the guidance and editorial standards of HDT's editors to provide useful information to our readers.