FMCSA files response to OOIDA's medical certification lawsuit

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 4/14/2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to deny the Owner-Operators Independent Driver Association’s petition that claims the agency bypassed the rulemaking process in its rule on medical examiners.

FMCSA filed the response to OOIDA on Thursday, April 13. The lawsuit concerns a final rule FMCSA issued in April 2015 that required certified medical examiners, who perform physicals on drivers of commercial motor vehicles, to use a new medical form. The agency announced it was creating procedures by which medical examiners would submit the results of driver medical examinations to the states so that a driver’s medical certification would be combined with the commercial driver’s license.

In its opening brief filed in January, OOIDA argued that the FMCSA overstepped by adding regulations that didn’t go through the rulemaking process.

At issue, OOIDA said the FMCSA incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations a detailed list of specific medical criteria as Appendix A that the agency didn’t include in its notice of proposed rulemaking. Sleep apnea was listed as one of the areas for medical examiners to review when deciding whether or not to medically certify a driver even though President Barack Obama signed a law in October 2013 that required the FMCSA to use a formal rulemaking process before requiring sleep apnea testing for commercial truck drivers.

“The agency did not demonstrate a connection between these medical criteria and driver safety,” OOIDA wrote. “The agency did not ask for public comments on Appendix A, nor did the agency evaluate the burden and cost of evaluating and testing these medical criteria in a driver examination.”

FMCSA contends that the petition doesn’t show an injury caused by the rule.

“The petition rests on the incorrect contention that this rule expands the examination and testing requirements to include sleep disorders or sleep apnea,” FMCSA wrote. “But the addition of sleep disorders and sleep apnea to the driver health history section of the medical examination report form and to the accompanying advisory guidance occurred in 2000, fifteen years before adoption of the final rule at issue here.”

OOIDA argued that drivers are being medically disqualified based on doctors’ beliefs that the sleep apnea guidelines are mandatory.

OOIDA’s reply to FMCSA’s response is due May 10.

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