DOT Reminds Commercial Drivers that Physicals Must Now Be Performed by Certified Medical Examiners

 National Registry Will Improve Safety for Travelers, Health of Commercial Drivers

 WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is reminding interstate truck and bus drivers that beginning today, all new USDOT physicals must be performed by a qualified health professional listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

“Safety is our highest priority and it is vital that every commercial truck and bus driver be qualified, alert, and focused when they are behind the wheel,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “Medical examiners equipped with a thorough understanding of DOT fitness standards will be able to ensure that commercial drivers meet the health requirements necessary to operate on our highways and roads, thereby strengthening safety for every traveler.”

The new program, which was required by federal law and addresses four National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, sets baseline training and testing standards for medical professionals who perform commercial driver physicals and for tracking of driver medical certificates. 

Today, approximately 22,000 medical professionals have completed the coursework and testing and are listed on the National Registry and another 27,000 have begun the certification process.  Current medical certificates held by commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders will continue to be valid until the expiration date that is shown on the card.  Only then will the driver need to seek a certified medical examiner to perform their new examination.

“We have certified thousands of health professionals to conduct driver exams – with more being added every day,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “The online database is easily searchable so drivers can schedule their medical certification exam with a qualified healthcare professional wherever they might be – coast to coast, including Hawaii and Alaska.”

A USDOT medical exam looks at a range of conditions to assess a driver’s ability to safely operate a commercial vehicle, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory and muscular functions, vision, and hearing.

All interstate commercial truck and bus drivers must pass a USDOT medical examination at least every two years in order to obtain a valid medical certificate, maintain their CDL, and legally operate a commercial motor vehicle.

Medical examiners on the National Registry will also be required to maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and recertification testing and those that fail to maintain federal standards will be removed.

FMCSA developed the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners program as part of the agency’s commitment to enhancing the medical oversight of interstate drivers, and preventing commercial vehicle-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities.  To learn more, visit


In 2012 a final rule was published in the Federal Register requiring DOT medical examiners to be certified, and complete minimum education, on the medical standards required for CMV drivers. The rule goes into effect two years after the Final rule was published, in this case the new rule will go into effect May 21, 2014. It is about time!

I have handled a number of cases where the medical provider clearly didn’t know what they were doing and provided a medical card to an unsafe, unqualified driver. A trucking company could require use of one of these certified examiners now, but in my experience they don’t. Unsafe CMV drivers remain on our roads.

I anticipate LOADS of CMV drivers will be trying to get a 2 year medical card from their "favorite" medical provider on May 20, 2014. Since they wont have to re-certify for two years, don’t expect safer roads until at least May 21, 2016!

You can learn more HERE.

For the dangers of, and prevalence of, sleep apnea see my prior blog HERE

MAP-21 made significant changes in the trucking industry regulatory scheme. One change is that Section 32307 of MAP-21 was amended to prohibit employers from allowing employees to drive when the employer knows or should reasonably know that the the driver is disqualified,or when the employee’s driver’s license was suspended, revoked, or canceled. This final rule, issued October 1, 2013, amends 49 CFR 383.37

Congress, despite a government shutdown, has a sleep apnea bill ready for the President’s signature. While the trucking industry estimates that “the impact of screening, diagnosis, and treatment for obstructive sleep apnea could exceed $1 billion annually.” The industry failed to mention that $1 billion annually is a bargain compared to the death, carnage, and destruction caused by a fatigued truck driver behind the wheel of an 80,000 pound tractor trailer.

The legislation requires the FMCSA to go through a full rule making process which will add years of delay to the implementation of this much needed legislation.

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to fatigued driving and is thus a medically disqualifying condition for truck drivers. FMCSR 391.41(b)(5) see also: FMCSA Medical Advisory HERE 


 Every so often I need to revise and update my standard spoliation letter (a letter telling the trucking company to save evidence that shows who is, and is not, at fault for a wreck). In part because of changes in the trucking industry, in part because it can always be made better.


In this latest update I strengthened some areas and added a request to save documents used in preventability determinations. My thanks to Jen Ojeda, a brilliant Atlanta, GA trucking lawyer,  for the idea which was brought to my attention by Steve Gursten, a superb Michigan tractor trailer lawyer.  For those of you counting, here is version 5!


Do you have a good tractor trailer lawyer? If the lawyer you are considering cant produce a spoliation letter upon demand, even at the initial meeting,  I STRONGLY suggest you consider looking for another lawyer.


If we know the trucking company and driver involved, our firm practice is to send our spoliation letter (often modified for the specific case) out the same day we are hired, or the next day if the mail has run. In some cases our clients are hospitalized – or worse – and we have to wait till the police report is available to identify the trucking company and driver so we know to whom we need to send the letter. Only in rare cases do we find that the spoliation letter shouldn’t be out within the first month of accepting a case.

Semiconductor technology firm Qualcomm Inc. said it has sold its transportation and logistics business, Omnitracs, to Vista Equity Partners for $800 million. This includes the Commercial Motor Vehicle tracking or "telematics" systems.
The acquisition by Vista Equity Partners will include all Omnitracs operations in the United States, Canada and Latin America as well as the companies it purchased in 2011, Sylectus and FleetRisk Advisors, according to the company.
“The opportunity for fleet management and telematics is evolving rapidly, and we believe Omnitracs is well positioned to continue its leadership position as a stand-alone entity,” Qualcomm Executive Vice President Derek Aberle said.
Qualcomm said it expects the sale to be completed during the first quarter of its 2014 fiscal year.
Omnitracs is part of Qualcomm’s Wireless & Internet segment, or QWI. Omnitracs has not been making the company a profit. The division posted a fiscal third-quarter loss of $16 million before tax, compared with a loss of $6 million in the same quarter last year. QWI revenue slipped 1% to $158 million.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Concussion Prevention Initiative are excited to host a FREE sports concussion seminar for community coaches, parents and school administrators in conjunction with Vanderbilt Sports Concussion Center.

The details of the seminar are outlined below:

When: Tuesday, August 13, 6:30 p.m.- 8:00 p.m.

Where: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University Center Auditorium, (642 East 5th Street, Chattanooga, TN)

Seating will be limited, so please click here to RSVP and for other details. A brochure is available here, and a flyer here.

Attendees will be educated on signs and symptoms of a concussion, short and long-term effects of a concussive injury, baseline testing, medical management, rehabilitation, prevention and more.

We are asking your help to encourage your coaches, parents and school administrators to attend this seminar and educate themselves on sports related concussions. 

I work with a lot of people with brain injuries. It is not something I would wish on any family. Please make sure your coaches attend this FREE program! 

Nominations are now open for the American Bar Association (ABA) Journal Blawg 100 and close on August 9 at 700 pm EST.

If you enjoy my blog, please nominate the Truck Injury Lawyer Blog for the ABA Journal Blawg 100.

You can nominate more than one blog for the Blawg 100 by sending in a  separate nomination for each blog you think worthy of the list.

Voting Information:

Truck Injury Lawyer Blog:

Nomination Link:


MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (P.L. 112-141), was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. It is the first long-term highway authorization enacted since 2005. It sets highway safety as a national goal. 

The changes brought about by MAP-21 are extensive and impact almost every area of the trucking industry. A complete copy of the legislation can be found HERE Lawyers handling trucking cases should make sure they review this legislation in detail. Much of the legislation has gone into effect, other provisions go into effect in October.