Who should keep the original Medical Examination Report Form (MERF) and for how long? How many times have you been asked by a manager at a trucking or bus company to give them the original MERF? What should you say or do? Like all things of this nature, the answer my friend is “not blowing in the wind” but is found in the Medical Examiner’s Handbook. Sometimes finding a citation from the handbook can help calm down a nervous manager who is anxious at the prospect of a DOT inspection. Some of these managers will ask that the original MERF be on file in their office and not at the medical examiner’s office. Well, that never made any sense to me even before I heard of 391.43 (i). You can help them out a bit and pull out your Medical Examiner’s Handbook, which as some of you may have noticed, there’s a link to at the right under “References” at this site..
§ 391.43: Medical examination; certificate of physical examination.
(i) Each original (paper or electronic) completed Medical Examination Report and a copy or electronic version of each medical examiner’s certificate must be retained on file at the office of the medical examiner for at least 3 years from the date of examination. The medical examiner must make all records and information in these files available to an authorized representative of FMCSA or an authorized Federal, State, or local enforcement agency representative, within 48 hours after the request is made.
According to above, we a required to keep the original (paper or electronic) MERF and a copy or electronic version of the medical examiner’s certificate (MEC). That should answer an employer’s question about who keeps what. So, where’s all the confusion coming from? Let’s back up a bit, and if we go to 391.43 (g) (2) we see that:
2) If the medical examiner finds that the person examined is physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle in accordance with § 391.41(b), he or she must complete a certificate in the form prescribed in paragraph (h) of this section and furnish the original to the person who was examined. The examiner must provide a copy to a prospective or current employing motor carrier who requests it.
To paraphrase, the medical examiner must give the original certificate or MEC to the driver and give a copy to the prospective or current employer who requests it. Is this where the confusion is with some motor carriers?
So to get back to our point, we, medical examiners keep the original MERF (most of us have the driver sign a medical release before providing a copy of the MERF to third-parties like employers and motor carriers since these files contain details of the driver’s medical information and physical examination results). We give the original certificate or medical examiner’s certificate (MEC) to the driver and a copy to current and prospective employer who ask for it. Is part of the confusion that some carriers are confusing the MERF with the MEC, leading to the who gets what and why question? I am not entirely sure, but it’s possible. (p.s. I recently had to talk “down” a somewhat “worked up” manager from a particular company about this, trying to explain to him that I needed to keep the original MERF in my possession. I didn’t use 391.43 but simply asked him how could I confidently assure the FMCSA that my original MERF is unaltered, if there is an audit or investigation if I did not keep the original).
(7)(i) The medical examiner’s certificate as required by §391.43(g) or a legible copy of the certificate.
I don’t see anywhere that it says the original Medical Examination Report Form must be retained on file by the motor carrier. So where did employers even get this idea? I don’t know, but if any one else out there does, please let me know. What we do have is a statement at the FMCSA FAQ site that the FMCSA does not address or prohibit sharing of medical information and that the physician should consult the HIPAA regulations. The proper procedure which an employer can use to get a copy of the MERF is also addressed here at the same site. I think that should settle this who gets what and why question.
The moral of the story is, If in doubt about any medical certification questions, always consult the Medical Examiner’s Handbook at the FMCSA website. That’s the best answer I can give to this question and most others. As far as I know, only Bob Dylan knows what else is “blowing in the wind”. That’s why we love him, but that’s also why we have a Medical Examiner’s Handbook.