MEDICAL CERTIFICATION WATCH: Another slow week of growth for new medical registry

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 4/11/2014

The new National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners added less than 800 more new medical examiners in the past week – with just a little more than five weeks until truckers face the mandated use of examiners on the registry for medical certification.

Back in May 2012, FMCSA established a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners to improve highway safety and driver health. The compliance date is May 21, 2014.

The agency estimated in the final rule that 20,000 certified medical examiners would be needed by May 21 and, as the program rolled out, it would eventually be about 40,000 needed to cover the vast area of 3,140 counties in the United States.

As of April 11, 2014, the total number of registered medical examiners is 12,776.

About 31.94 percent of the eventual goal of 40,000 medical examiners has been reached, a 1.94 percent increase from last week. Since the beginning of March, there has been an average increase of only 2.3 percent each week.

During the early stages rulemaking process, it was pointed out during the comments that a shortage of examiners could mean that many drivers will have to drive a few hundred miles out of their way to complete their certification. Fewer examiners could also lead to longer wait times for drivers and no opportunities for walk-ins. 

In the April 8 petition for a direct final rulemaking to extend the May 21 deadline, OOIDA officials challenge FMCSA’s estimated workload demands on the medical professionals listed in the registry. The Association contends the lack of a sufficient number of medical professionals will create hardships on CDL holders seeking to get or renew medical certification in a timely basis.

FMCSA expects the number of registered examiners to grow, noting that many people tend to wait until the last minute to take the test.

FMCSA is closely monitoring the growing list and locations of certified medical examiners to ensure that an adequate number are registered by the May 21 deadline, according to a statement released by the agency. Currently, more than 13,000 medical professionals have passed the exam to be added to the registry, 4,200 more are scheduled to take the test, and an additional 19,600 have signed up to start the process. There are certified examiners in every state, and dozens or hundreds in most cities.

The National Registry requires drivers to receive medical certification from medical professionals who are part of the registry. Official examiners will be trained on FMCSA’s regulations and the physical standards of the truck driving industry. In the past, any licensed professional could certify a driver for physical qualification.

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