FMCSA's Medical Review Board updates medical examiner's handbook

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board is in the beginning stages of updating the agency’s Medical Examiner Handbook.

The board met on Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the National Training Center in Arlington, Va., to review and update the 260-page document.

Jay Grimes, manager of Federal Affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, attended the meeting in hopes the updated handbook will make it clear to certified medical examiners what is regulation and what is merely guidance.

A regulation has gone through the rulemaking process, while guidance has not.

“We make the case overall that as they address the handbook that they really make it clear the difference between regulation and guidance,” Grimes said. “The formatting throughout the handbook can be very confusing, because it provides different notes and reminders that can certainly be interpreted as regulation, but they’re not.”

Another point of emphasis from OOIDA is that all photographs of crashes be removed from the handbook.

“There’s a section on crashes and fatalities, and they have pictures of these horrific crashes that really don’t belong in a medical handbook and are really against FMCSA policy to be included in a federal document,” Grimes said. “We asked that they be removed, and the FMCSA representative acknowledged that fact.”

Grimes also suggested that the handbook make it clear to certified medical examiners their role in determining whether or not a driver is fit to drive a commercial motor vehicle while not ignoring the medical judgment of the driver’s personal physician.

“We also wanted to make the point that throughout the book there should be some references that CMEs shouldn’t be overruling personal physicians of drivers,” Grimes said. “They should stress the importance that a CME should accept the medical judgment of a driver’s personal physician. Too often we’re seeing CMEs ignoring the physician’s judgment and denying medical cards to drivers.”

OOIDA wants to make sure the handbook gives certified medical examiners a clear understanding of the regulations, but also a clear understanding of the rights of the drivers.

“We also want to make sure that the handbook states that a driver is entitled to a second opinion, and that a CME should acknowledge that fact,” Grimes said. “We’re seeing a lot of cases where CMEs think it’s against regulation for a driver to get a second opinion.

“We offered the idea that the FMCSA should perhaps create a second document that is the drivers’ bill of rights when it comes to a certified medical exam.”

OOIDA plans to issue formal comments to the Medical Review Board in the next week or so.

Grimes said the process of updating the handbook will likely take at least a year.

“They got through about the first 60 pages or so. The FMCSA representatives on hand said it would probably take a few meetings to get through the whole process. So they started going through the handbook, but there’s still a long ways to go.”

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