OOIDA calls for delay in new medical certification program

OOIDA calls for delay in new medical certification program

Deadline looms, but ‘critical’ problems and confusion remain

Following up on a similar and unanswered request from last May, the Owner-Operator Independent Driver Assn. (OOIDA) has petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to extend the Dec. 22 deadline to implement changes in the Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration Final Rule—an extension necessary to avoid “a potential storm” of confusion over CDL renewals.

“OOIDA’s [April] petition raised several critical issues, issues that have only gotten worse in the interim,” the request states. “OOIDA has learned that many experienced professional drivers with excellent safety records have continued to encounter different situations that produce results that are contrary to the goals and intentions of the program.”

As OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Scott Grenerth explained to American Trucker, the risk is that many Certified Medical Examiners (CMEs) remain uninformed of the substantial changes to the process, and they will continue to use the current forms—documentation that will not be accepted by state licensing authorities. And that puts many truckers who need DOT medical exams in coming weeks and months at real risk of losing their livelihoods until the paperwork is in order. 

“We’re not talking minor, one-word changes. There are substantial new procedures,” Grenerth said. “There is so much confusion, it’s just really ludicrous to think at this point FMCSA is going to be able to have all 47,000 CMEs confident of what they’re supposed to be doing when that date comes around. This is one heck of a potential storm that’s brewing if they don’t make sure everybody’s on board.”

Indeed, the association has learned that a recent email blast to the pool of CMEs returned 19,000 as undeliverable—suggesting that a large number of the examiners likely will not be in compliance with changes mandated for Dec. 22.

OOIDA cites the “abundant and significant confusion” expressed by examiners during recent informational sessions hosted by FMCSA, with agency staff members having to “table” a number of questions pending further internal review and discussion.

Grenerth also points to the lack of a transitional “grace period” and the “zero wiggle room” between the requirements on Dec. 21 and the changes on Dec. 22.

“It is absolutely critical that the agency continue to ensure adequate time is allowed to correctly implement this program,” OOIDA’s petition reads. “FMCSA’s staff’s own apparent confusion and the lack of clarity of their communications to stakeholders over important issues mirror that of stakeholders’ grasp of the rules.

“Changes and improvements are necessary for the NRCME program to adequately and uniformly focus on fairness, highway safety, and driver health.”

A copy of the new, more comprehensive Medical Examination Report (MER) form is here.

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