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FROM THE HILL


that could interfere with safe driving. As of May 21, those examiners must be listed with the FMCSA’sNational Registry for Certified Medical Examiners. The Owner-Operator IndependentDrivers


Association (OOIDA) has requested a delay on the FMCSA rule. As of March 28, there were 10,223 registered medical examiners, which “is little more than half of those that would be needed under FMCSA’s most optimistic (although unsupported by the record) estimate that 20,000 would be a sufficient number of medical examiners to perform all of the examinations required by the regulated community,” OOIDA said in its petition. Based on the assumption that 2.6 million


annual examinations are needed, the average examiner would need to perform 130 certifications per year – far more than FMCSA’s expectations for average medical examiner performance, OOIDA said. The group also argued that many drivers


won’t be able to find registered examiners to certify them before their prior certification expires or will face burdens such as having to travel farther to find an examiner. In response to OOIDA’s petition, FMCSA


said it is “closely monitoring the growing list and locations of certified medical examiners to ensure that an adequate number are registered by the May 21 deadline,” and also emphasized that most drivers will not need a new physical exam immediately following the May deadline as certificates remain valid until the expiration date. The American Trucking Associations


(ATA) supports the national registry as a way to ensure all drivers are medically qualified. “However, we are concerned with the relatively slow pace at which medical professionals are being certified by FMCSA,” ATA said in response to the OOIDA petition. “We continue to work with FMCSA and our state association partners to identify underserved areas, and we encourage FMCSA to be flexible in addressing any shortcomings.” FMCSA is planning a sleep apnea


rulemaking later this year or in early 2015, said Jack Van Steenburg, FMCSA’s assistant administrator and chief safety officer, in a speech at the 2014 Zonar Systems user conference.His remarks were reported by FleetOwner. New rules on sleep apnea have been


years in the making, but every part of the rulemaking process has been covered except for the public comment and budgetary review, said Evan Bledsoe, executive vice president of Nashville-based Sleep Access, LLC, a company


ROADWISE | ISSUE 4, 2014 | www.mttrucking.org 11


that provides sleep apnea services to motor carriers.Under a law passed by Congress last year, the FMCSA must undergo a formal rulemaking process rather than simply issue guidance before requiring sleep apnea testing. Regardless of when or whether new


rules take effect, the current regulatory environment is changing the way medical examiners handle sleep apnea, Bledsoe said. Physicians can be held liable for the medical cards they issue to drivers. Meanwhile, the FMCSA’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and Medical ReviewBoard jointly issued proposed recommendations


for sleep apnea in 2012. Even though those recommendations have never been formally approved, it’s obvious that FMCSA is moving in that direction, so doctors can’t claim ignorance about the agency’s priorities. Most of Sleep Access’ physician partners have instituted internal guidelines mirroring those joint recommendations in order to create a baseline standard and to cover their bases. According to Bledsoe, “With or without the formal guidance being issued toDOT physicians, the bell may have already been rung as far as screening drivers for (sleep apnea) risk.” RW


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