FMCSA: Medical board should oversee CDL health standards

| 6/11/2003

At a June 10 Senate hearing, FMCSA Acting Administrator Annette Sandberg said the agency needed a standing medical review board to provide expert advice on driver qualification standards and guidelines, medical examiner education and medical research.

Sandberg spoke before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation, which is considering recommendations for FMCSA's reauthorization, including the administration's legislative proposal known as the Safe, Accountable Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003.

"The members would come from leading medical/academic institutions and serve three- to five-year terms. In the past, we have assembled expert medical specialists on an ad hoc basis to review the standards and guidelines for qualifying truck and bus drivers," Sandberg said. "A standing review board will greatly enhance the agency's ability to adopt regulations that reflect current medical advances. Many of the medical standards currently in effect were originally adopted in the 1970s or earlier."

Sandberg said FMCSA had more than 6 million commercial drivers under its jurisdiction.

"We must ensure that only drivers physically qualified to operate a commercial vehicle are doing so. There are tragic examples where this has not been the case," she said.

Sandberg told of a medical examiner lacking familiarity with FMCSA's medical criteria who certified a Louisiana bus driver with heart and kidney disease. The driver later crashed, killing 22 passengers.

"A medical examiner registry, as called for in our proposal, will help FMCSA to provide more comprehensive information on medical practitioners to drivers and carriers. It will help disseminate information to practitioners regarding medical policies and requirements relevant to the physical qualifications of commercial drivers. A medical registry is necessary to upgrade the quality of CDL driver medical qualification exams," Sandberg added.