FMCSA says doctors need signed certificate before they can conduct DOT exams

April 4, 2018

Mark Schremmer

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said a medical professional does not become a certified medical examiner until he or she receives a signed certificate and that any DOT exams performed before that time would be considered invalid.

FMCSA’s explanation was in response to Land Line receiving information that at least one doctor started conducting DOT physicals for commercial motor vehicle drivers after passing the test but before receiving a certificate. While the FMCSA didn’t confirm nor deny the incident, the agency indicated that any such physicals would be invalid and that the drivers would need to be re-examined by a certified medical examiner to receive a medical card.

The FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners website has been down since it was hacked on Dec. 1. Mike Megehee, a doctor of chiropractic and president of Pendleton, Ore.-based Team CME, told Land Line in February that the website outage was keeping doctors, who recently passed their certification, from joining the national registry.

“We still have doctors who have taken the training and have actually passed the certification test, but they can’t do the exams because they can’t get in the national registry,” Megehee said. “They can’t be added. They’ve done all the work, but they can’t start.”

The FMCSA didn’t comment on whether or not any doctor jumped the gun and started conducting DOT physicals without a certificate. However, the source told Land Line that the doctor, who believed he or she had been added to the registry, had been examining drivers since December. It is unclear how many drivers may have been affected.

FMCSA said the agency conducts a validation process before a medical professional receives a signed certificate. That validation process includes checking to insure the test results are accurate, checking to insure the training has been posted, and validating that the medical professional’s credentials are current.

As of Wednesday, April 4, the national registry website was still listed as “currently under construction” and hadn’t been updated since Feb. 7, when the agency announced that it had inadvertently sent email notifications to medical examiners, telling them they would be removed from the registry.

“The notification was an error,” the website stated. “FMCSA is not currently planning to remove any medical examiners from its national registry based on out-of-date information.”

FMCSA didn’t answer any of Land Line’s questions or provide any information about what caused the error.

The website outage has also created a large backlog of DOT exams that certified medical examiners are still waiting to upload.

Megehee said there were about 3.5 million exams performed last year. Assuming the same pace of exams have been conducted since December, there would be an estimated backlog of more than 1.1 million exams waiting to be uploaded.

FMCSA has never provided a timeline for when it expects the registry website to be fully functional.

While the site isn’t fully operational, there is a search tool available to help drivers, motor carriers and state driver’s license agencies verify that a health care provider is certified and listed on the registry. CMEs can continue to conduct DOT physicals and issue paper Medical Examiner’s Certificates, Form MCSA-5876 to qualified drivers. Medical examiners are instructed to segregate all examinations completed during the outage and be prepared to upload them to the national registry system with no penalties when it is back online.

Truck drivers, who are preparing for a DOT exam, can use the OOIDA website to read reviews on certified medical examiners.

TravelCenters of America

Mark Schremmer, senior editor, joined Land Line in 2015. An award-winning journalist and former assistant news editor at The Topeka Capital-Journal, he brings fresh ideas, solid reporting skills, and more than two decades of journalism experience to our staff.