By Dr. Dave Thorpe
The answer is yes! For years the FMCSA had indicated that once the driver has a diagnosis of high blood pressure, whether they are treated or not, the maximum that a driver can be allowed on the Med Cert. card would be one year. In recent years this has been changed a bit to benefit the driver who does all the right things.
What Are The Important Numbers?
Let’s first begin by taking a look at a few key numbers that are needed for a driver’s blood pressure. Concern over blood pressure begins when a person’s blood pressure reaches 140/90. If either the top number or the bottom number reaches that mark (or both numbers), then the person is considered to have high blood pressure.
Secondly, high blood pressure is separated into three different stages based on how high the blood pressure goes.
Stage 1 is from 140 – 159/90 – 99. If a drivers BP falls in this range this is considered mild high blood pressure.
Stage 2 is from 160 – 179/ 100 – 109. If a drivers BP falls in this range this is considered moderate high blood pressure.
Stage 3 is from 180 and above/110 or greater. If a drivers BP falls in this range this is considered severe high blood pressure. People who have blood pressure in this range are in significant risk and should seek immediate medical attention.
What Do The Regulations State?
FMCSA regulations say that a driver must keep their blood pressure below 140/90 to be certified without any shortening of that certification time (and get a 2 year card).
If during their medical exam they have a blood pressure that is Stage 1, 2 or 3, or if they have a history of high blood pressure (treated with medication, exercise or diet for example, or if they have a history of being treated before even if they are no longer treated), then they can only be certified for a maximum of 1 year once the blood pressure is lowered to at or below 140/90. The exception to this is if a driver has “ever” suffered a BP that was Stage 3, the medical examiner is only supposed to give the driver a maximum of 6 months for their certification thereafter. This regulation was interpreted as being permanent for the driver by medical examiners for many years.
In recent years however, the FMCSA has modified this position, and now it is actually up to the medical examiner to determine if the driver who does not have the need to be treated for high blood pressure anymore as determined by the drivers treating medical provider, can be certified for two years again. The DOT medical examiner will have to contact the drivers treating provider to see if and why the driver no longer needs to be treated. The most common reasoning for not needing treatment relates to better health such as from weight loss, exercise and dietary reasons. The driver’s provider must also state that the drivers BP has been stable for about two years without medication. The medical examiner will then have the OPTION to provide the driver a two year medical card.
Note I said option, and realize that the decision is up to the medical examiner, and different medical examiners can have different decisions. Sometimes they are just unaware, and other times it may relate to another medical condition that you may suffer from. If you don’t agree you also have the option of getting a second opinion from another medical examiner. Getting a two year certification is a definite possibility!