FMCSA proposes extending parts of medical examiner final rule to 2025

April 20, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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A new supplemental notice to a final rule aimed at updating and streamlining medical examiner regulations would set the new deadline more than a decade after the final rule first came about.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposes to amend its regulations to extend the compliance date for several provisions of its 2015 medical examiner’s certification integration final rule by another four years, until June 23, 2025.

The supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking is scheduled to publish in The Federal Register on Thursday, April 22. A 30-day comment period is expected to follow.

The agency already issued an interim final rule on June 21, 2018, extending the compliance date for these provisions until June 22, 2021.

“This action is being taken to provide FMCSA time to complete certain information technology system development tasks for its National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and to provide the state driver’s licensing agencies sufficient time to make the necessary IT programming changes after the new national registry system is available,” the supplemental notice states.

OOIDA opposes the extension

Since issuing the 2015 final rule, there have been ongoing challenges associated with launching a new national registry system, the agency notice states.

In December 2017, the registry experienced an outage that lasted seven months. During that time, FMCSA suspended medical examiners’ uploading of driver examinations until that functionality was restored. Because of the outage and technical issues in relaunching the registry, approximately 780,000 driver examinations could be missing from the database, according to an estimate from an audit released in January by the Office of the Inspector General.

The supplemental notice blames the hacking attempt and “other related actions” for affecting the schedule and resulting in the postponement of the compliance date via the 2018 interim final rule. Since then the agency says it has “experienced additional setbacks in its efforts to launch the national registry replacement system that require an additional delay.” It hired a new contractor in December 2020 to develop the system.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association called FMCSA’s technology failures “simply unacceptable.”

“The continued failures of FMCSA’s IT infrastructure are simply unacceptable, especially as more agency systems transition to online platforms,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “We recommend FMCSA should first address their own internal technology problems before attempting to advance other unproven technology systems such as automated emergency braking, speed limiters, and self-driving trucks.”

Four medical examiner provisions to be delayed

FMCSA specifically looks to postpone four provisions in 80 FR 22790, the Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration Rule of 2015 having to do with the electronic transmission of certain records from the agency’s national registry website to state licensing agencies, and from state licensing agencies to the Commercial Driver’s License Information System.

Specifically, the agency proposes to postpone the following provisions for:

  • FMCSA to electronically transmit, from the national registry to the state licensing agencies driver identification information, examination results and restriction information from examinations performed for holders of commercial learner’s permits or commercial driver’s licenses (interstate and intrastate).
  • FMCSA to electronically transmit to the state licensing agency medical variance information for all commercial motor vehicle drivers.
  • State licensing agencies to post on the Commercial Driver’s License Information System driver record the driver identification, examination results, and restriction information received electronically from FMCSA.
  • Motor carriers to no longer be required to verify that commercial learner’s permit/CDL drivers were certified by a certified medical examiner listed on the national registry. LL
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Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.