Opinion: Using the Medical Examiners Registry
By Michael Megehee, D.C.
This Opinion piece appears in the May 7 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.
Mandated by the legislation called SAFETEA-LU and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005, the final rule for the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners — to be known henceforth simply as the “National Registry” — was finally released to the public April 18 and goes into effect May 21.
The new regulation will require for the first time that medical examiners (MEs) who perform commercial driver license (CDL) physicals attend an accredited training course and pass a test to become certified medical examiners (CMEs) in the National Registry.
Commercial drivers also will be required to use National Registry CMEs for obtaining a CDL medical certificate, beginning May 21, 2014.
Since the legislation was signed, motor carriers and drivers have voiced concerns ranging from having fewer physicians to choose from to increased fees for the required medical exam.
And some drivers fear tighter controls will threaten their medical qualification to drive.
Meanwhile, the MEs have worried about the costs of their own training and the time they must devote to passing the certification test.
It’s easy to understand these concerns, but in the end, my group believes the National Registry will benefit the great majority of drivers, motor carriers and medical examiners.
Yes, some drivers will lose their CDLs because of serious medical conditions, but there actually are very few of what I call “absolute” disqualifiers — that is, medical conditions or medications that are an automatic “fail” over which no ME has discretion to allow the driver to stay on the road. They are:
• Use of the drugs methadone or Chantix (varenicline) or a Schedule I drug.
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