As any good driver knows, you don't hit the road without a current CDL and truck driver medical card — a violation of the Driver Fitness BASIC could cost you big time. But, as you may have heard, getting your medical certificate could be a bit trickier in 2014. That's when drivers will be required to use certified medical examiners listed in the FMCSA's National Registry.
Standardizing DOT medical exams
You already know that interstate drivers are required to undergo a thorough physical exam every two years. (Though some truckers with conditions, like hypertension, may be required to be examined more frequently.)
Well, in the not so distant future, you won't be able to get that all-important truck driver medical card from any doctor with a stethoscope draped around their neck.
In 2014, the FMCSA will require all doctors, physician's assistants and nurse practitioners who want to perform DOT medical exams to be both properly trained and certified by the National Registry. That means all medical examiners will have a thorough understanding of FMCSR medical standards, and how they relate to both the physical and mental strain a truck driving career can place on men and women.
It's the FMCSA's hope that this will provide more consistency across medical exams and improve safety.
Driver Fitness BASIC compliance
So, what does this mean for drivers?
Well, we got the low-down from Elaine Papp, Division Chief of the Office of Medical Programs for the FMCSA, and a speaker at the recent Truck Driver Social Media Convention.
First off, she clarified that the compliance date for drivers will be May 21, 2014.
That means if you go in for your physical on May 20, 2014 and receive your truck driver medical card, you won't have to worry about locating a National Registry-certified ME for two years.
Getting your truck driver medical card
Now, if your existing medical certificate doesn't expire until after the compliance date, don't worry. The FMCSA is working hard to make your search for a certified ME much easier.
The FMCSA will launch a finder tool using Google maps. That means locating a certified medical examiner in your area will be as simple as entering your address and clicking "submit." The Google map will then display local providers, making it as easy to find an ME, as it is to find a great pizza joint in Pittsburgh, PA.
Encourage your medical examiner to become National Registry certified
The finder tool also has a second purpose. As medical examiners are added to the database, the FMCSA will easily be able to determine which regions lack the certified medical examiners necessary to serve the needs of that area's drivers. And when those underserved regions have been identified, they'll know exactly where to target their outreach efforts.
Of course, the FMCSA encourages you to speak to your own medical examiner.
Estimates suggest 40,000 certified medical examiners are needed to meet demand. So, if you really like your ME, encourage them to become certified. It would mean you receive continuity of care, while giving them an opportunity to serve new patients.
And that's a win-win.
Have questions about the National Registry and how to obtain your truck driver medical card? We encourage you to contact the FMCSA's Office of Medical Programs at 202-366-4001 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.