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Federal Commercial Driver Medical Requirements Are Changing

Posted on February 1, 2021
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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is updating rules and regulations regarding commercial driver medical certifications.  

For many years, CDL drivers have been required to pass a regular health examination from a medical professional. Commercial drivers are also required to carry proof that they passed their exam (usually a certificate) whenever they operate a commercial vehicle. The medical exam requirement itself isn’t changing. But, the way that a driver obtains that certification is being tweaked.

The previous rules and regulations

Previously, drivers were allowed to use any doctor they wanted to perform their exam. It didn’t matter what kind of doctor signed off on the exam, and it wasn’t a matter of concern for the FMCSA. Their only concern was that a driver could provide proof that they passed the DOT (Department of Transportation) physical exam. This meant that a doctor, a dentist, or even a podiatrist could issue the exam.  

There were also no limitations on how frequently an exam could be administered. That meant that if a driver failed an exam, they could just go to a different doctor the next day for a passing grade. Some doctors even allowed drivers to retake the exam multiple times before giving the final grade. So, drivers with borderline medical conditions like high blood-pressure could fail and then pass on the same day or very soon after.

New rules and regulations

With the new rules, the process of giving and receiving a physical exam has gotten more difficult. The FMCSA is taking more control over who can perform the exam. They’ve created the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. This is a list of licensed doctors who have been certified to administer the test. Drivers who need to find a licensed doctor can find a complete list here: National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners

Since doctors need to be registered, drivers also have to register their certificates with the state that issued their license. Failure to register could result in suspension or revocation of the license. Drivers must also report to the state whether they’re operating in interstate or intrastate commerce. They also have to indicate if they’re an exception to the exam. Exceptions usually include individuals who drive fire trucks, school busses, etc.  

If a driver fails the DOT physical exam the FMCSA requires that the problem be corrected before they can drive again. The driver may have to report to their personal physician for help correcting the issue.