Second opinion, or doctor shopping?
With honesty and the proper documentation, a trucker is within his or her rights to seek a second opinion when obtaining a DOT medical card.

By David Tanner, senior editor

The FMCSA has made an important clarification for truckers concerning medical and physical qualifications to drive. Specifically, the clarification has to do with whether a trucker can seek a second opinion when dealing with a DOT-certified medical examiner.

The short answer is yes, but there’s more to it.

Scott Grenerth, OOIDA’s director of regulatory affairs, and Dale Watkins of OOIDA’s Business Services Department recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Chuck Horan, who oversees the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

Grenerth and Watkins went prepared to air concerns that truckers have with the registry since it went live on May 21. Most of the concerns and complaints are about the inconsistency in how the certified medical examiners interpret DOT regs and guidance when conducting driver physicals.

Some examiners have run roughshod over drivers on the issue of sleep apnea, insisting that apnea testing is a regulation even though it is not.

OOIDA Member Jeffrey Spear, aka, “Cowboy,” had a negative experience a few months ago when he went for a driver physical at Agnesian HealthCare in his hometown of Fond du Lac, Wis.

“They were looking to fail me and do anything they could to get me to take a sleep test,” Spear told Land Line Magazine.

Spear says the examiner measured him an inch shorter than he is, said he was heavier than he is, and measured his neck size an inch larger than it is. The examiner insisted Spear be tested for sleep apnea even though Spear had a note from his family doctor saying he did not have sleep apnea.

“(The doctor) had me down for a three-month card and I was to have a sleep study done at that time,” Spear said.

Grenerth said what Spear did next was within his rights based on what the FMCSA told OOIDA.

Spear sought a second opinion from Lynn Biese-Carroll, a certified examiner who is part of a medical team working out of the Highlands Petro in Racine.

According to Spear, Biese-Carroll did not think he was at risk for sleep apnea. She issued him a one-year medical card and did not order a sleep test, although Spear is to return to discuss his progress in being treated for blood pressure.

“It’s up to the doctor to do a thorough exam to see if drivers are at risk of a sudden, incapacitating event,” Biese-Carroll told Land Line in October.

“Because there is gray area (in DOT guidance), it’s up to the doctor’s medical opinion what the recommendation for follow up should be,” she said.

“We see a wide gap in practical application of the DOT’s regulations and recommendations – with some clinics being very lax, and some people being too rigid in the application of the DOT’s intended rules and regulations. We think that somewhere in the middle is probably where most of the doctors hopefully exist, with an interest in helping the drivers become healthier while still applying the rules that keep the driver road safe.”

When obtaining a second opinion, truckers must be sure that they are honest and don’t cross the line into what would be considered “doctor shopping” – which is not legal and can lead to disqualification.

“There is nothing wrong with a second opinion,” Grenerth said. “But if the driver lies to the second doctor about his or her medical status by not disclosing a known medical condition, it is illegal.”

Grenerth and Watkins said that when a driver visits more than one medical examiner, it shows up in the medical examiner database.

“If the driver has given the same information to both examiners, it is not a problem,” Grenerth said. “If the information the driver provided is not consistent, this will be followed up on and if found to be dishonest can lead to disqualification.”

In Spear’s case, he had a note from his family doctor, something he was able to present as documentation that he did not need a sleep apnea test. LL