The Department of Transportation mandates that truck drivers get a physical checkup at least once every 2 years. The purpose is simple: Ensure truck drivers are fit to drive. Of course a rule is only effective when someone enforces it, which raises the question: Who is actually responsible for making sure that truck drivers stay up to date with DOT physicals?
Answer: Truck drivers themselves are responsible for ensuring they pass the mandatory DOT physical exam at least once every 24 months, while individual states’ driver licensing agencies check to make sure those drivers comply with the law.
“All commercial drivers of vehicles in interstate commerce with a maximum gross vehicle weight rating of over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms) are required to obtain and maintain a valid Medical Examiner's Certificate (ME Certificate).”
“CDL drivers, who do not update the expiration date of their ME Certificate with their State, will have their commercial driving privileges downgraded, and will not be eligible to drive a commercial motor vehicle that requires a CDL.”FMCSA Medical Guidelines, fmcsa.dot.gov
A Brief Overview of the Truck Driver Physical Process
To make sure they’re fit to operate heavy commercial vehicles, truck drivers must see a physician registered with the DOT and undergo a series of physical tests. Doctors check various aspects of their personal health and examine their medical history for signs of any dangerous conditions that could impede their ability to drive.
If the driver has no red flags they’re cleared to operate commercial vehicles for up to 2 years before their next physical. Some health issues may reduce that window if the doctor wants to monitor them, and others may disqualify the driver entirely from further service.
Who Makes Sure Drivers Renew Their Medical Certification?
Assuming the driver gets a clean enough bill of health to continue operation, they’re responsible for keeping that Medical Examiner's Certificate—or “medical card”—up to date. That means they must go back within the window the physician decided upon and get re-evaluated.
If the driver doesn’t go back in time for some reason, their State Driver Licensing Agency (SDLA) steps in. Drivers must submit a copy of their medical clearance to the SDLA, which will then monitor when that clearance expires. If the driver doesn’t revisit a registered physician and get an up-to-date medical card, the state will downgrade their license and they'll be prohibited from commercial service.
How Do Issues with DOT-Mandated Physicals Impact Victims?
Truck drivers have a duty to stay off the road if they’re unfit to be there, and proving their fitness with documented health checkups is a non-negotiable part of their job. For one reason or another, though, that doesn't always happen and the driver causes a serious wreck due to a health mishap.
It’s rarely easy for average people to tell whether the driver somehow had an unforeseeable emergency or if they had a known medical condition that may have made a crash inevitable. Finding that out often requires careful investigation from experienced professionals who know what to look for.
With decades of combined experience, the truck accident attorneys at Grossman Law Offices can help. If you or a loved one were involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler and aren't sure what to do next, call today for a free consultation.