New regulations will require bus, truck drivers to get certified examsArea News
-- The federal Department of Transportation requires people with commercial driver’s licenses to get a medical physical at least every two years to keep their licenses.
By: Sarah Gorvin , Pierce County Herald
RED WING, Minn. -- The federal Department of Transportation requires people with commercial driver’s licenses to get a medical physical at least every two years to keep their licenses.
“Basically up to now … any provider, medical doctor, chiropractor — they can do the DOT physical,” said Kodjo Bossou, a doctor in the occupational health department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing.
But new federal regulations, which will go into effect in May 2014, will require many commercial license holders, including bus and truck drivers, to get their medical examinations done by physicians who are trained and certified to do so. The goal is to prevent medical emergency-related truck and bus crashes by having what likely will be more intense health exams.
“Right now, we’re pretty much all over the place,” said Bossou, who has been part of what he called “the ongoing discussion” behind the new regulations. “One of the reasons we’re going through this now is to standardize the process.”
Previously, and until the regulations officially go into effect May 21, commercial driver’s license holders can go to any physician they want to get their medical cards.
Problems arise, Bossou said, when a driver is denied by one physician due to medical reasons and “shops around” until they find a physician who will issue a medical card. He said some physicians don’t understand the DOT medical requirements and simply issue the medical cards “because they don’t know.”
“That’s one thing this certification is going to get us all to understand,” he said. “Training would solve this discrepancy.”
Eric Lawrence, president of Lawrence Transportation in Red Wing, said the new regulations won’t have too much of an effect on his company. He said Lawrence Transportation is already aware of medical providers who don’t do thorough physicals and won’t accept drivers who received their medical cards from those physicians.
“There’s different levels. We know in the industry who’s had the real quick medicals,” Lawrence said.
"The carriers that are out there that are using the no-so-reputable medical people won’t be able to do that anymore,” he said, adding that the forthcoming regulations will “level the playing field.”
To become a certified physician, doctors must complete a daylong training course and then pass a written test. Physicians will be taught to look for medical issues that truck drivers can be especially susceptible to, including eye strain, chronic stress, sleep apnea, diabetes, high blood pressure obesity and skeletal and muscular strain.
“Training will include key core components,” Bossou said. “Physicians will be able to understand and effectively manage the requirements.”
In addition, each physician who passes the test will be assigned an identification number, which will be used to identify which doctor each driver was examined by. Every month, certified physicians will then need to submit to the Department of Transportation information about the drivers they saw, including their names, driver’s license numbers and Social Security numbers.
“The DOT will know which provider (each driver is) going to,” Bossou said.
Currently, Mayo Clinic in Rochester offers the one-day class to physicians. Bossou said courses will be held in November and again in early 2013.
It’s not yet clear whether medical providers will charge more for the exams. Regardless, Lawrence said he supports the new measure.
“I’m not a fan of more regulations, but I think this is needed,” he said. “It will … keep unsafe drivers that have medical issues off the road.”