Issues & Positions

Jim Johnston
OOIDA President

Should your motor carrier have your detailed personal medical history? A current proposed rule change by the U.S. DOT aimed at revising the Commercial Driver Medical Examination requirements makes that a distinct possibility. The controversy and OOIDA's objections revolve around the long form medical examination report suggested as part of the DOT physical exam and the availability of that form to motor carriers.

DOT wants to update and simplify the commercial driver's medical examination form. While that's a goal we support, we have some serious concerns. OOIDA believes the newly proposed certification process for the medical examination report asks for a great deal of medical history that may or may not be relevant to a person's fitness to drive a commercial motor vehicle.

OOIDA supports updating the medical examination form but we also have some serious concerns

Among the newly formulated requirements is a broad set of health-related questions in the form of a pre-physical "survey" and the requirement that a driver sign, certifying that the responses are complete and true.

OOIDA filed comments on this proposal Dec. 9, 1998, taking the position that the medical professional is the individual most qualified to determine the medical and regulatory relevance of the issues outlined in the survey, not the driver. Leaving technical medical evaluations to the driver puts his career at risk if he misunderstands, or unintentionally submits inaccurate answers. Such inaccurate results, according to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM), could invalidate the Medical Examiner's Certificate and might result in unnecessary and inappropriate revocation of the driver's commercial license by the issuing state.

OOIDA is equally concerned that while the pending revision simply requires that a driver have proof that he/she is physically able to drive a commercial motor vehicle, some employers/motor carriers may have access to or request a copy of this examination report. Drivers commonly assume that the motor carrier gets a copy of the long form, even though under the regs, it's not required that the motor carrier have this information.

We have serious concerns that the irrelevant details of a driver's medical history could be used by motor carriers to refuse employment, terminate, or in other ways discriminate against a driver who is otherwise qualified to do the job. OOIDA suggests a medical professional conduct an interview with the driver on his/her health history issues and only the information relevant to that person's fitness to drive a commercial vehicle under the standards be recorded on the report.

Should your motor carrier have your detailed personal medical history?

The Association has strong objections to proposed federal requirements for performance of optional medical tests that are unnecessary and irrelevant to the Agency's own standards for determining a driver's fitness to operate a truck. In FHWA's proposal is a provision for optional tests such as a baseline electrocardiogram at age 40, chest x-rays and more. Instructions to the medical examiner recommend male drivers over the age of 45 undergo exercise stress testing (EST), commonly known as the treadmill test. That's if family history or other factors indicate a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

Are these optional tests really essential for certification? We don't think so. Nor do we believe that DOT has the authority to require testing beyond that which is necessary to determine current medical qualification. Such tests can be very costly, and while they can be personally beneficial to the individual being tested, they have no relevance to federal regulation and the results of those tests are no one else's business – not the DOT's, and certainly not the employer or motor carrier.

Federal law strictly prohibits employers from requesting or having access to medical history information other than that specifically necessary to qualify for the job the individual is to perform. There is absolutely no justification for allowing motor carriers access to information that no other business in this country is allowed to have. Likewise, there is no justification for the federal government's intrusion into the private medical history of commercial drivers beyond the limited authority to assure their medical fitness to operate commercial motor vehicles. While at times federal regulations may have the same effect as hemorrhoids, that doesn't mean they have the right to know if you have them.

For those of you who are online, the entire text of OOIDA's comments may be found on OOIDA's website,www.ooida.comLL