Med Exam Pass? On FMCSA Validation of Driver Medical Cards

What’s it going to take? A “Med Exam Pass” to “pre-clear” professional truck drivers who have already gone through all the steps to make sure that they have:

  • Med Exam Pass?Obtained a DOT physical from a “certified” medical examiner;
  • Been evaluated for sleep apnea; and
  • Who knows what else to make sure that they are “medically qualified” to drive a truck?

Why Target the Truckers?

When Vicki first read the article about how “the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and its state-based partners will begin conducting random verifications of driver medical cards”, something just didn’t sound right. (Other articles on this subject are herehere and here.)

The more she thought on this, the more troubling this subject became, for these reasons:

  1. There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in the endeavor. Notice two quotes from the article:
    • “The purpose, it says, is… not to evaluate the driver for ‘fitness to operate a CMV,’ says FMCSA’s announcement.”
    • “The goal, the agency says in the announcement, is to ‘…keep medically unqualified drivers off our nation’s highways.'”

    Perhaps we don’t understand the delicate distinction, but “fitness to operate a CMV” and medical qualification seem to be very closely related if not the same.

  2. Someone may say that it is the FMCSA’s or DOT’s “right” or even “duty” to “verify that a driver’s medical examination was indeed conducted and that the information on the certificate is accurate” during “enforcement and compliance inspections of trucks and drivers” (as the article says).But why are the professional truck drivers who have jumped through all of the hoops the ones who are going to have to bear the brunt of the inspection — again?After all, who are the ones who are going to have to wait while all of the “verifications” are being made? The drivers!And who will be paying the drivers for their waiting time while these verifications are being made? Probably no one.
  3. Wasn’t this whole issue about getting a proper DOT medical exam (DOT physical) and a driver medical card supposed to have been addressed when all the medical examiners supposedly got certified?
  4. Not only that, but if the FMCSA or DOT is truly looking for “unqualified drivers,” do they really think that checking the paperwork on a “random” basis is going to catch them?Any renegades (assuming there are any) are likely to avoid places where trucks and drivers get inspected and thus elude detection.

We think that there is an easier way for all of this med exam mess (assuming there is one) to be straightened out, one that will not inconvenience the drivers at all.

We’ll propose it below.

Before that, let’s consider a few things…

Putting New Controls in Place?

Assuming this procedure takes root — and as much as we don’t like the thought of it — we envision the day when some kind of Med Exam Pass may be instituted.

What do we mean by a Med Exam Pass?

Well, envision an individualized and health-directed form of PrePass.

Here’s what PrePass says about itself.

We have benefited in trucking from using PrePass, but that doesn’t mean we would favor something like a Med Exam Pass system.

Problems With New Controls

Why don’t we like the thought of a Med Exam Pass?

Benjamin Franklin was quoted as saying:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

If this saying was paraphrased for this topic, it might read:

They who can give up essential health privacy to obtain driving pre-clearance, deserve neither health privacy nor pre-clearance.

PrePass uses a transponder for driving pre-clearance.

Would a Med Exam Pass system use something like a transponder — but that moves with the driver instead of being issued to the truck?

Well, so many professional drivers have Smartphones now.

More and more drivers are using mobile apps upon which to keep their electronic logs.

There may come a day in which some kind of Med Exam Pass trucker app is created to link an electronic version of a driver’s “Medical Examination Report FOR COMMERCIAL DRIVER FITNESS DETERMINATION” with his or her cell phone as the pre-clearance tool.(1)

However, there could be multiple problems associated with a Med Exam Pass app.

Cyber security data hacked.Consider how:

  • the system can be hacked or rigged;
  • people who do not need this information may be able to gain access to it (sort of like anyone being able to read unprotected credit card information with a cheap RFID reader); and
  • people who can legitimately access the information in the course of their jobs can “save” the info to personal devices which can then be hacked.

We have learned that a hacker gained access to a South Carolina Department of Revenue database containing

  • some 3.6 million Social Security numbers from citizens and
  • info from 657,000 businesses who filed income tax returns in the state in recent years.

If it is possible that a statewide database can get hacked — and if a Department of Defense Pentagon computer system can get hacked — then anything is possible.

New Controls Won’t Help the Stated Purpose

The idea of a medical exam pass (Med Exam Pass) may seem like a good one, but its creation would be one more step toward a national ID system and one that we don’t think will bring us any closer to safer driving or safer highways.

(Note: Some folks are squarely against electronic health records and a national identity card(2) for privacy reasons.)

Not only that, but if more than 80% of truck accidents “are the fault of the non-commercial driver,” implementing a Med Exam Pass system on the truckers alone will not serve the purpose for which any government agency would say it is intended.

A Mountain Out of a Molehill?

Why are we even addressing this verification or potential Med Exam Pass issue?

After all, the article says that the officials will be conducting verifications on a “random” basis.

Yes, the number of verifications performed is likely to be low in proportion to the total number of truckers.

However, what if you’re one of the few drivers who “wins ‘The Lottery‘”?

Someone is likely to question why we have linked to the video based on Shirley Jackson’s short story in which the townsfolk stone to death one of their own.

One disturbing fact that becomes apparent in the movie is that not one single person — not even from the family of the “lottery winner” — was willing to stand up against the stoning.

One interpretation of the short story is that it is about upholding traditions even when those traditions are bad.

As you know, all traditions start somewhere.

We think that starting to conduct “random” verifications at the driver level is the start of a tradition that doesn’t need to be started.

Furthermore, instituting any kind of Med Exam Pass would reinforce the driver-level verification program.

Is this not an issue that all professional truck drivers should band together on, to press for a better way for verification of driver medical cards?

If we don’t all stand up to protect our own, we may one day be the one who is targeted.

A Better Way to Handle This Issue

In order for a trucker to get behind the wheel of a commercial motor vehicle in the first place, he or she has to

The person conducting this examination is supposed to have already gotten a Medical Examiner’s Certificate.

If the FMCSA doubts its own system of requiring DOT physicals on professional truck drivers by certified medical examiners, we think that the agency ought to be

(They could do a much more thorough job of verification or validation in either of those locations.)

Professional drivers have already done everything they need to do to drive a truck.

We don’t need another “verification” or “validation” at the driver level to slow us down and interfere with our ability to earn a living.

Truckers, you have the right to question the start of any new tradition that could potentially hinder your ability to earn a paycheck.

Even though we wrote it specifically regarding products, we think you have the right to ask for substantiation regarding the benefit of any new program or procedure being implemented that will or could affect you.

Where Will It End?

We are not aware of any quotas on the number of drivers who will be inconvenienced by this new procedure.

Nor are we aware of any definition of “success” or specifications that have been put in place to call for the program’s continuation.

However, if this new procedure is allowed to take hold, it most likely won’t be the last.

We predict greater and greater scrutiny and delay for drivers in the USA.

We hope that professional truck drivers will rally together on this issue and speak out.

The FMCSA’s website is here.

truck drivers money saving tip iconMoney saving tip: Be vigilant regarding the release of your personal health information as shown on your DOT physical and medical examination report.

Remember that that report has your name and Social Security Number on it!

That’s all someone needs to steal your identity.

Your report also has your birthdate on it.

Be careful regarding using any type of tracking system — like a Smartphone app — that contains your personally identifiable information, that could be read by others or hacked.

This includes a potential Med Exam Pass app.

Stand against easy transmission of your private health records by any means outside your control.

Understand the risks of transmitting your private heath records even under your control, such as the tapping or hacking of that information by unauthorized personnel.

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