By: Dr. David Thorpe
The DOT physical exam causes stress to both motor carriers and drivers alike. Whether it be having enough drivers to move freight, or simply the need to put food on the table, any delay creates headaches in the trucking industry. The impact of the exam goes far beyond the delay. Understanding the exam, and all the regulations that are attached to it is intimidating for the medical examiner let alone the driver, along with those who work in safety or who have to recruit new drivers. Knowing how to sift through all of the regulations attached to it, and streamline the process will make all the headaches and stress go away. Let’s explore this a little further!
Why All The Worry?
The FMCSA has increasingly focused on reducing the number or crashes, injuries and fatalities related to the industry. On the surface this certainly would be a great goal. Like all government bodies however, the regulations and guidance that are attached to many of their programs can be extensive and sifting through the requirements can be a daunting task.
The job of being a truck driver can also be demanding and stressful in and of itself. It involves not only many physical demands, but the need to be away from family for extended periods in many circumstances as well as many other stresses. Couple this with fact that the driver population is aging and is increasingly less healthy, you can understand why driver health is of concern to the FMCSA.
The good news is that all of the focus on determining driver fitness has led to a decrease in the number of crashes and fatalities. The bad news however is that the DOT exam process has become increasingly more difficulty leading to more delays and greater expense to both driver and motor carrier.
The Nature of the Exam Has Historically Been the Cause of Many Delays in Certification.
The exam and the regulations and guidance attached to medical certification is both very complex as well as being ambiguous at the same time. For example, if a driver has a heart attack, they will have to complete a number of tasks and requirements before the medical examiner can grant them a medical certificate.
First the driver must complete a mandatory 2 month waiting period before they are able return to driving. They must also have written clearance from their cardiologist, and medical testing (Exercise tolerance test and ECG) that meet minimum requirements. They often need to have clearance on many of the medications that they are taking also. If they fulfill this, and their exam shows no other abnormalities, then they can be granted a 1 year certificate.
Additionally, medical certification can often be very ambiguous. There are many conditions that cause concern but do not have specific regulations on how to determine driver fitness for duty. One example that is causing an increasing amount of concern is sleep apnea. Without a specific regulation, and only guidance, the decision is up to the medical examiner to make the determination. This frequently leads to differences in opinion with medical examiners, often leading to need for additional testing (sleep studies), proof of compliance in treatment (CPAP compliance reports) and frequent delays in certification.
So What Happens if the Driver Doesn’t Have All of the Information Needed at the Time of the Exam?
It used to be that a driver could skate by and be granted a temporary certificate. Not anymore. Since the changes in certification, and the new forms that came out in 2016, there are no longer any temporary certificates. If you are granted a 3 month certificate to allow time to obtain all the needed information, you are required to have another complete physical exam even if you bring the information back in a week. This leads to greater cost and more headaches in the exam process.
There is a new certification status called “determination pending”. If used, the driver can use what is remaining on their current medical certificate and continue driving while obtaining all the required information. You won’t need another exam, but you only have 45 days to get all your information and once your card expires, you cannot drive until you receive your new medical card.
The other issue with this determination is the need for more frequent DOT exams. If you continually go in for an exam a month to 45 days before your card expires in order to make sure you can continue to drive after you determine what is needed to certify, you will be losing that amount of time every time you go in for the exam. If you end up with a one year certificate for example, you will be always have only 11 months until your next exam.
What Is The Solution?
Drivers need to be prepared before they go into the exam. You must sift through all of the guidance and regulations that exist, and complete all requirements for certification before you go in for your exam. Sounds daunting doesn’t it. Many safety directors in motor carriers call me daily asking for such answers. That’s why Pass My Physical was developed.
Pass My Physical is a management platform for motor carriers and drivers. It does all the work for you. Some of its features include:
- Provides information for drivers and motor carriers on how to properly fill out the form
- Provides guidance and regulations for easy review prior to the exam.
- Allows drivers to enter all of their information and safely and securely store all of it for access at any time.
- When filling out the 32 questions in the exam form, the platform will direct the driver to what is needed, and provide them with the solutions to fulfill the requirements.
- Will print out a completed exam form at any time. Just enter the data once, update when needed, and print it out.
- Allows motor carriers to manage their Fleet’s DOT physical exams. They will be able to check the status at any time, add and subtract drives with ease, and know when driver exams are due.
- Drivers and motor carriers will be able to print out personalized clearance letters listing all requirements needed. Just have your medical provider sign the letter, and take it with you to your exam.
- Alerts drivers and motor carriers when exams are due.
- Alerts will keep drivers and motor carriers information of proposed and new changes to guidance and regulations.
It streamlines the overall process, and eliminate most delays associated with the DOT exam. It leads to more operating revenue, less administrative burden, and less operating expense. All at the click of a finger.
To find out more about Pass My Physical, check it out at www.PassMyPhysical.com.