What should Motor Carriers and Bus Operators expect from the new National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners?

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National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (National Registry) is a new Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) program designed to help improve highway safety and driver health. The program will require all medical examiners (MEs) who wish to perform DOT physical examinations for commercial vehicle drivers to be certified by May 21, 2014.

  • All medical examiners must be trained and pass a certification test to be listed on the National Registry 
  • All Interstate CMV drivers must obtain their physical exams and a medical examiner’s certificate from a certified medical examiner listed on the National Registry. Drivers are required to provide the medical certificate to the State agency issuing their CDL license. 
  • The National Registry will not change how often drivers need to obtain a medical examination (at a minimum every 2 years). However, medical examiners may determine that an individual driver may need more frequent exams based on the driver’s medical history. 
  • Employers must verify that drivers who complete a medical exam after May 21, 2014 have used an examiner listed on the Registry. They must search the registry for the ME who provided the driver’s medical certificate by name or registry number.
  • Drivers will still receive a medical certificate from the medical examiner after passing their exam; however, the certificate will now include the certified medical examiner’s National Registry Number

Why is the National Registry being introduced?

The purpose of the registry is to enhance highway safety and driver health by requiring medical examiners to be trained, tested and certified. The goal is to ensure that MEs thoroughly understand the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations guidance and be able to effectively determine whether a driver is medically qualified to perform safety sensitive duties.

MEs will be required to complete periodic training every five years and to complete recertification testing every 10 years. Information from National Transportation Safety Board crash investigations indicates that improper medical certification of CMV drivers who had serious disqualifying medical conditions were a contributing factor in some fatal and injury crashes.

Will there be a shortage of certified medical examiners?

As of January 17th, 5,517 medical professionals have taken the exam and are registered, an increase of around 2,400 since mid-November. The FMCSA’s target is to have 20,000 to 25,000 certified medical examiners by May 2014.

They had originally projected a certification number of 40,000 but have since revised their target due to the lag in response. Medical Examiners are required to pay for the training and testing themselves and there is no known estimate for the number of medical professionals who will actually take the time to complete the testing.

Currently there are only a handful of vendors offering instructional courses. There may be a backlog in the ability of medical professionals to complete the training by the effective date. If a ME candidate fails the test, he or she has to wait 30 days before re-taking the test.

What can you do NOW to be prepared?

Check to see if the medical examiner you currently use is listed on the National Registry. If not, start researching vendors now. Even if your medical examiner is planning to become certified, it would be a good idea to secure a backup vendor in case your medical examiner experiences a delay in getting their certification.

Many predict a shortage of certified examiners, especially in the early stages of this new program, which means the cost for a DOT physical exam may increase. Lock in a price structure now with your DOT medical exam provider before potential price increases may occur.

Identify drivers whose medical certifications will expire in the next several months, and encourage your drivers to complete their DOT physical exams early. With a driver’s busy schedule, exams are usually delayed until the last minute and oftentimes same day appointments are needed (particularly for those drivers who have allowed their medical certificates to expire).

With the possibility of a certified medical examiner shortage, same-day appointments may not be available. Finding an approved examiner in rural areas may also prove cumbersome or impossible; and drivers may have to travel greater distances to obtain an exam. Being proactive will help ensure that your drivers receive their medical certifications on a timely basis.

What to look for in a drug and health screening provider?

Find a screening provider that knows the transportation industry and is thoroughly familiar with federal and state regulations. Expertise in DOT processes with a Medical Review Officer employed on staff helps ensure program compliance.

Search for a provider with a national presence and a nationwide network of testing facilities; of sufficient size and scope to contain your costs through economies of scale. Physical exam offerings should be tailored to your individual needs, and may include options for health, vision, hearing, disease, immunology checks and wellbeing services.

To save time and increase program efficiencies, integrate your drug and health screening program with your background screening process for easy management within a single interface.

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HireRight is a leading provider of on-demand employment background checks, drug and health screening, and electronic Form I-9 and E-Verify solutions that help employers automate, manage and control background screening and related programs.

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