Among the many regulations governing commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) are ones about drivers passing mandatory physical exams to ensure they're fit to do the job. Not just any doctor can conduct the exam, though; in fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a specific registry of approved physicians permitted to test drivers and clear them for duty. What is that list, and who's on it?
Answer: The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME) is a federally-maintained list of physicians who are trained and certified to conduct physical examinations for interstate CMV drivers.
FMCSA establishes a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners with requirements that all medical examiners who conduct physical examinations for interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers meet the following criteria: Complete certain training concerning FMCSA's physical qualification standards, pass a test to verify an understanding of those standards, and maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and testing...FMCSA will require that motor carriers and drivers use only those medical examiners on the Agency's National Registry and will only accept as valid medical examiner's certificates issued by medical examiners listed on the National Registry.77 FR 24103
Why Was the Registry Created?
Before the creation of the NRCME just about any physician could perform a commercial driver's physical exam regardless of their training (or lack of it). Drivers sometimes failed one day and passed the next, retried the test several times before passing, or "doctor-shopped" until they found a practitioner more lenient toward their health problems. As long as they eventually had a certificate saying they were fit enough to do their jobs, nobody paid much mind to how they got it.
After a handful of devastating commercial wrecks were caused by "approved" drivers with critical medical conditions, the FMCSA decided to make a change. Regulations were introduced that said doctors who performed physical evaluations must be specially trained and licensed by the agency. Exam results would also be reported to the agency and centrally stored for reference. These determinations led to the creation of the National Registry.
Who Is On the NRCME?
The FMCSA's official term for the licensed practitioners allowed to perform physicals is medical examiners. According to the agency's official documentation the term "includes but is not limited to doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and doctors of chiropractic." Essentially any physician permitted by their state to conduct physical examinations is eligible for the registry as long as they undergo the required training and certification.
Why Is the Registry Important for Commercial Accident Victims?
The NRCME helps ensure that commercial drivers' medical requirements actually carry some weight. Truckers who breezed through lax evaluations before the registry's creation might be failed by trained and certified doctors, and the FMCSA receives records of those failures to ensure the driver can't keep trying until they pass. Those steps help drastically reduce the number of medically-triggered commercial vehicle accidents.
That doesn't mean they'll be eliminated completely, however. Sometimes drivers in poor health still manage to operate CMVs for one reason or another, and when their medical complications cause crashes the NCRME may show they shouldn't have been on the road in the first place.
That's why one of the first places an experienced attorney will look after a commercial crash is the driver's medical history—including the results of his DOT physicals, which thanks to the NCRME should be easier to locate. The evidence in those and other records can be invaluable for proving who and what are responsible for a crash and any injuries that follow.
If you or a loved one were hurt in an accident with a commercial vehicle, the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices will gladly discuss your situation with you. Call any time for a free consultation.