Occupational Physicians Recommend Revisions to NTSB

Jan. 27, 2000
The ACOEM told the NTSB that the current medical examination process for commercial drivers is failing and needs to be improved.

The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) recommended to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that revisions be made to the current medical examiniation process for commercial drivers.

"With more than 5,000 individuals killed in accidents involving large trucks in the past year, it is obvious that the current commercial drivers licensed system is failing," said Dr. Robert J. McCunney, ACOEM president.

In a letter, sent to Jim Hall, chairman of the NTSB, McCunney expressed concern about the current regulations that permit the required medical examination to be performed by any licensed health care provider.

"While the quality of most of these examiniations is excellent, there are many examiners who are unaware of either the regulations or the regulatory criteria that explain them," wrote McCunney.

McCunney pointed to a recent Federal Highway Administration study showing that examiners oftentimes do not understand what is required to satisfy the federal motor carrier safety regulations concerning fitness to drive.

Evidence of this was found in missing and inconsistent information on examination forms and inaccurate interpretations of the medical standards.

These deficiencies in the examination process could result in commercial drivers on the road who do not meet federal regulations.

"Occupational physicians who have the clinical and administrative knowledege and skills to perform Department of Transportation exams are specifically trained to assess safe worker capacities and make determinations of proper work placements," said McCunney.

McCunney suggested a national program that trains and certifies medical examiners to provide overall uniformity in the conduct of the examiniation, interpretation of the regulations, and reporting procedures.

In addition, McCunney pointed out that current regulations do not require medical examiners to report the results of examinations to state licensing agencies.

By requiring medical examiners to report to the state all adverse examination results, drivers who have an impairment would not be able to "game the system," said McCunney.

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