Federal Update
Matrix re-loaded
Medical Review Board formally recommends new driver health requirements

By Charlie Morasch
staff writer


A panel of medical professionals has recommended FMCSA adopt a series of requirements that would prove expensive for commercial truck drivers.

In early January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Medical Review Board formally voted to recommend the Agency require use of its “driver fitness for duty” matrix – an obstacle course of potential medication and psychological conditions that could disqualify millions of commercial drivers or force many to undergo as many as two DOT physicals per year.

Under the recommended matrix system, drivers with more than one physical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a body mass index of 35 or higher – would be either pulled from the road or required to be medically certified as often as twice a year.

The board originally recommended FMCSA adopt the matrix system a year ago. This time, the matrix also includes psychological issues as part of its checks on commercial truck and bus drivers.

Under the psychological disorders portion of the matrix, the board divided disorders into categories of mild, moderate and extreme. The board recommended that drivers with mild psychological disorders be required to be cleared annually, and moderate disorders would include evaluations every six months.

Hazmat haulers and bus drivers with any diagnosed psychological disorder would face additional scrutiny.

If the matrix is adopted as recommended by the Medical Review Board, medical doctors, psychologists and others would stand to see increased appointments from drivers.

“I personally get more and more frustrated every time this panel meets,” said Melissa Theriault Rohan, OOIDA associate director of government affairs. “While there is plenty of talk about potential new standards and procedures, little evidence, if any, gets presented to show that anyone would be safer on roads and highways because of these measures.”

The board is strictly advisory in nature, meaning FMCSA may begin a rulemaking process to enact regulations based on the recommendations, may take portions of the recommendations under advisement, or may ignore them altogether.

OOIDA has continually asked policymakers to remember two things in its consideration of enacting any sort of matrix.

The first is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 75 percent of all wrecks involving trucks and passenger vehicles are not the fault of the truck driver.

Secondly, no government agency or academic institution has produced a credible study linking any rash of poor commercial driver health to any increase in traffic crashes. LL