The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is cracking down on lax medical examiners’ regulations in hopes of getting unsafe truck drivers and bus drivers off the road. Currently, almost any medical professional, including general practitioners, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, and others, can issue a medical certificate to truck drivers. The drivers only have to get a medical exam once per year. Due to the nature of truck driving, many critical ailments that could affect a driver’s health and safety on the road are going undiagnosed. Long periods of sitting and driving can lead to type II diabetes, high blood pressure, painful hemorrhoids, eye strain, and chronic stress. Some of these conditions can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and vehicle accidents. Truckers also have a high percentage of smoking, lack of physical exercise, and other unhealthy habits that could lead to unsafe operations on the road.
The new regulations, which go into effect in May of 2014 require truck drivers and bus drivers to get a physical exam by a medical examiner who has undergone the training and testing imposed by the FMCSA. It is estimated that the U.S. needs about 40,000 such qualified medical examiners to examine the 3 million truck and bus drivers on the road today.
The examiners will undergo training once every five years, and must pass the testing once every ten years. Drivers are still only required to see a certified medical examiner once every two years. Additionally, the medical examiner must report the results of the exam that day. This means that if a trucker fails the exam, he is put out of commission immediately.
The trucking industry is concerned that this will leave drivers stranded with their loads, leading to failure to deliver, products ruining on the roadside, and truckers stranded with no way to get back home. FMCSA maintains that the new testing procedures are designed to get drivers the preventative care they need to stay healthy and be safe on the roads.