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Physical exams for commercial drivers and accident prevention

For years, federal safety regulators have been trying to reduce the number of truck accidents caused by operator errors. One aspect of this has been changes to the hours-of-service rules to prevent truck driver fatigue. These rules place limits on the number of hours drivers can be on the road continuously without taking breaks.

Those rules are important, and so are rules intended to make sure that drivers are in good enough health to operate their vehicles safely. That is why federal rules now require medical examinations of all interstate bus and truck drivers. Drivers must not only pass the exam; they must also keep a copy of the certificate they get after doing so.

Once commercial drivers pass their physical exams, the certificate they receive is usually valid for 24 months. But if a driver has specific issues, such as high blood pressure, the certificate could be for less than 24 months.

But who should give those examinations? Over four years ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration began working on plans to create a national registry for medical examiners for commercial drivers. The plans were to have not only a registry, but federal certification standards.

Under current law, other healthcare professionals besides medical doctors are allowed to give the exams. These other professionals include advanced practice nurses, physicians assistants, and others authorized by a given state.

These other professionals will still be allowed to give the exams under a new federal rule set to go into effect on May 21, 2014. But that new rule will require them to receive training and pass a competency test before being allowed to give the exams.

Source: "Doctors, trucking companies favor new health-testing regulation," The Gazette, 1-2-13

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Tennessee truck accident page.

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