Saturday, October 19, 2013

Who is going to give you your next DOT physical? Truckers want to know

“Now truckers will have to get DOT physicals from a certified specialist … specializing in WHAT? That sounds really stupid to me.”  That was one of the comments fielded by FMCSA Medical Programs Nurse Practitioner Pam Perry Saturday morning at a seminar on the new medical registration requirements.

FMCSA's Pam Perry arrived at OOIDA's Heart of America
Trucking Show ready for truckers' questions. And she
got plenty of them at Saturday's seminar.
John Taylor, owner-operator and OOIDA life member, wanted to know why FMCSA is requiring all 4 million CDL holders to have their DOT physicals done by doctors and other medical practitioners who are "certified" and members of a special registry. He wanted to know why (as of May 21 of next year) it could no longer be done by truckers' personal doctors, doctors who know them best. And he and others wanted to know how all this came about.

“Who asked for this?” said one trucker.

Perry said Congress mandated it and told FMCSA to “get it done.” She said the mandate was the result of safety lobbyists reacting to a 1999 bus crash in New Orleans that killed 22 people. It was discovered that the bus driver was not medically qualified to have a CDL. In fact, Perry said he had been in the ER for serious conditions only 10 hours prior and had been hospitalized at least 10 times for various problems that should have prevented him from passing a physical.

One trucker asked if "it could go back on the doctor who passed the bus driver?” When Perry confirmed that, yes, it did – it prompted questions about the doctors involved in accidents where drivers were found to be medically unqualified. Perry said such doctors would not be allowed to do DOT physicals anymore.

Another trucker was quick to predict that this new medical requirement would result in skyrocketing liability insurance for doctors.

“What about carriers then?” was another question from the trucker audience. “What if they put a driver on the road whose DOT physical was not done by a certified, registered ME?”

“It’s the carriers’ responsibility, too," Perry said.

With the clock ticking toward the May 21, 2014, compliance date, another question addressed the number of certified medical examiners that would be needed and how many are certified at this time. Perry said 20,000 would be needed by May and, as the program rolled out, it would be about 40,000. She said the current number of doctors registered was 14,000, but not all were trained and certified yet.

She stressed that if you got your DOT physical before the compliance date, it would be good for two years.

“You won’t have to get a physical again until it expires,” she said. “Even if you get it the day before May 21.”

Miles Verhoef, a trucker and OOIDA member from Saco, Mont., expressed his concern with the size and rurality of his rural state and how many doctors in Montana would hesitate to pay to be certified and go through the training to be registered. Verhoef wasn't happy with how far he’d have to drive to get a physical.

Perry said getting enough certified medical examiners in the larger rural states is one of FMCSA’s biggest concerns, but they’ve taken steps to stay ahead of it.

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