The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is once again, cracking down on the number of unqualified/unsafe drivers operating on our nation’s roads with the recent announcement of random medical checks.
Rather than being an effort to evaluate a driver’s medical fitness, the purpose of these checks are to ensure that the driver’s medical examination/“information on the Medical Examination Certificate is accurate,” eliminating fraudulent MECs and unsafe drivers from the road. 1
According to the FMCSA, the following steps will be taken to validate MEC authenticity:
- Contact the Medical Examiner’s (ME) office at the telephone number indicated on the certificate;
- Explain the inquiry’s purpose and indicate that it is intended solely to confirm that the document presented by the driver matches the records maintained by the ME. Direct contact with the actual ME is not required – an authorized staff member may provide the requested information; and
- Provide the driver’s name and date of birth, the date of issuance of the MEC and any restrictions indicated thereon and request verbal confirmation of the information provided.
Additionally, doctors who provide commercial drivers medical examinations are now required to have a special certification in doing so, receiving specialized training regarding health issues that may lead to safety hazards on the road, preventing drivers from being passed by another doctor after failing the first time by placing responsibility upon the doctor. 2
Drivers are seeing these changes as yet another obstacle to the new rules they are already struggling to get used to/finding a hassle. These include the following:
The FMCSA’s CSA gained the number one spot for the first time as the top issue currently affecting the trucking industry.
In last year’s ATRI survey, drivers and owner-operators listed their concerns over CSA which included job security and safety concerns.
Whereas the FMCSA upheld a driver’s HOS at 11 hours, the group revised the hours-of-service provision to include two consecutive breaks between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5.am., reducing a driver’s work week from 82 to 70 hours, which leads to lower wages since many drivers are paid by the mile.
The ATA, along with other groups continuing to oppose the ruling, are seeking changes to the following: 11-hour daily driving limit, 30-minute required breaks, and 34-hour restart provision. 3
Electronic Onboard Recording Devices ranked a new high since its first appearance in the ATRI’s survey in 2007. As the survey states, “Though FMCSA had been working towards a new EOBR/ELD final rule that addressed harassment concerns, the agency’s work was preempted by the inclusion of an EOBR/ELD mandate for HOS tracking in the MAP-21 transportation bill passed by Congress in 2012. In MAP-21, Congress gave the agency until October 1, 2013 to issue a final rule.” 4
Random medical exam checks are just another one of the things drivers now have to face along with capacity issues and stricter regulations.
The trucking industry demonstrates its important role in freight transportation, comprising of “67 percent of tonnage and 81 percent of revenue in 2011,” according to the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast. 5 In fact, “the trucking industry adds about 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product each year.” 6
As one driver states, “This is the last industry that America has to keep amerce running. If they shut down this trucking industry, America is in trouble, so they need to leave the truck drivers alone.” 7
Do you agree with this driver in that if the FMCSA continues to create new laws/enforcements, the trucking industry, which is already experiencing difficulty recruiting drivers, will begin to suffer and the country would be in trouble?
Below are new medical certification requirements that took place earlier this year as listed on the FMCSA’s website.
4ATRI’s Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry 2012 report