The OOIDA (Owner Operated Independent Drivers Association) contends in its petition filed on 4/8/2014 to the FMCSA that a delay is necessary in the May 21, 2014 enforcement date requiring that all commercial drivers be evaluated by a medical examiner listed in the National Registry. It proposed that in the interim that both examiners certified under the new rule and those qualified (but not yet certified) under the current rule be allowed to evaluate the 3 million plus commercial drivers that need evaluations each year. Since the FMCSA has not currently met its goal of 40,000 certified medical examiners (CMEs), the OOIDA reports that drivers will find it difficult to be seen by an examiner in the Registry and will suffer disruption to their employment and business, causing them to bear undue burden and higher costs for their medical certification. As a legal basis to their argument, the OOIDA cited the recent delayed CDL/medical examiner’s certificate (MEC) merger by the FMCSA that would have required the State Driver License Agency (SDLA) to link the MEC to a driver’s CDL in the Commercial Driver Licensing Information System (CDLIS). This would have required CDL drivers to only carry their MEC for 15 days, but was delayed until January 30, 2015, due to the lack of readiness of some of the States. As the compliance date of May 21, 2014 approaches, the OOIDA contends that the FMCSA should use that same authority to delay the National Registry. The OOIDA in their petition stated that:
“Good Cause exists that allows the FMCSA to change the compliance date in the rule, without public comment and without 30 day notice, until a sufficient number of medical examiners are listed in the National registry”
In the Noticed of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), the OOIDA reported that the FMCSA’s initial estimate was for 40,000 medical examiners, derived from an estimated 3 million drivers needing certification at least every year and an average of 75 medical examinations performed per year by medical examiners. (3 million divided by 75 gives us 40,000).
In a “Subsequent Notice and Request for Comment”, the OOIDA reported that the FMCSA changed its estimate to 4.58 million drivers per year, which led to an increase in the number of CMEs needed to 61,000 CMEs, if applying the same math and logic. This was later reverted back to 40,000 CMEs, when other estimates were used in the “Final Rule Regulatory Evaluation” on December 2011. At 20,000 CMEs (50% of the initial estimate) which was thought would be sufficient by the FMCSA , the OOIDA reported that the FMCSA had no basis for that lesser estimate.
As of March 28, 2014 there is a reported 10,223 CMEs, well short of the 40,000. If the number of drivers needing certification is put at 2.6 million, the new calculations would put it at 130 certifications per year to be performed by each of the 20,000 CMEs (2.6 million divided by 20,000). There were other estimates used that brought the number of CMEs to 70,000 based on whether you increased the number of drivers needing examination or decreased the number of examinations estimated per year per examiner.
What’s my take?
First, it should be noted that 75 examinations per year (which is only about 6 evaluations a month) is an extremely low encounter for any medical examiner who devotes a significant part of his practice to these type of examinations. No one that goes through the trouble of getting certified is hoping to just perform 75 examination per year. Drivers that live in the metropolitan area in New York where I practice, currently have many options available to them now and will continue to do so as more practitioners are becoming certified. I believe that like anything else in New York, the competition will be stiff, and I may spend more of my time writing blogs (hahahah), than actually seeing drivers. I love evaluating commercial drivers, and I hope that is never the case. In general, and I can not speak for all practitioners, there seems to be a lot of no shows, and cancellations when dealing with DOT physicals, period. I suppose if I was in rural Kansas or at some truck stop in the middle of America, I wouldn’t know what to do with all these drivers. I think in New York, anyway, people go where it’s close and the price is right or whatever is more convenient for them in terms of time. For the drivers who don’t have any out-of-pocket expenses (cause their company covers it), they couldn’t care less.
The main concern I have is for the drivers in rural areas, who are estimated to compromise more than 50% of commercial drivers overall. Look, if I thought I could make it in rural New York or Jersey, ( forget Texas, no offense) I think that I would be very happy seeing those drivers. I connect with them and I think they do so also. After all, I’m here to serve them no matter where I am. However, serving underserved areas will always prove to be a challenge to medical practitioners and responsible government and non-governmental agencies alike. But delaying the National Registry, is NOT the answer. The lack of adequate medical care in general in rural underserved areas is not new and continues to be a challenge. Drivers, being mobile by nature, and with careful planning will be able to access the certified medical examiners needed while away from their home by consulting the National Registry map or by doing an internet search to find the nearest CMEs. Some of these practitioners can even be found in unconventional settings like truck stops. As more practitioners become certified, the process should get easier with time. I think that the OOIDA’s concerns are well founded, but respectfully do not justify a delay in the compliance date.
Hey, just send more drivers my way, cause I’ve been ready and waiting for a long time now! My prices are fair and I don’t force anyone into any kind of agreement. I just like truckers that’s all!