Question 1: Who is responsible for ensuring that medical certifications meet the requirements?
Guidance: Medical certification determinations are the responsibility of the medical examiner. The motor carrier has the responsibility to ensure that the medical examiner is informed of the minimum medical requirements and the characteristics of the work to be performed. The motor carrier is also responsible for ensuring that only medically qualified drivers are operating CMVs in interstate commerce.
Question 2: Do the physical qualification requirements of the FMCSRs infringe upon a person’s religious beliefs if such beliefs prohibit being examined by a licensed doctor of medicine or osteopathy?
No. To determine whether a governmental regulation infringes on a person’s right to freely practice his religion, the interest served by the regulation must be balanced against the degree to which a person’s rights are adversely affected. Biklen v. Board of Education, 333 F. Supp. 902 (N.D.N.Y. 1971) aff’d 406 U.S. 951 (1972).
If there is an important objective being promoted by the requirement and the restriction on religious freedom is reasonably adapted to achieving that objective, the requirement should be upheld. Burgin v. Henderson, 536 F.2d 501 (2d. Cir. 1976). Based on the tests developed by the courts and the important objective served, the regulation meets Constitutional standards. It does not deny a driver his First Amendment rights.
Question 3: What are the physical qualification requirements for operating a CMV in interstate commerce?
Guidance: The physical qualification regulations for drivers in interstate commerce are found at §391.41. Instructions to medical examiners performing physical examinations of these drivers are found at §391.43. Interpretive guidelines are distributed upon request.
The qualification standards cover 13 areas which directly relate to the driving function. All but four of the standards require a judgement by the medical examiner. A person’s qualification to drive is determined by a medical examiner who is knowledgeable about the driver’s functions and whether a particular condition would interfere with the driver’s ability to operate a CMV safely. In the case of vision, hearing, insulin-using diabetes, and epilepsy, the current standards are absolute, providing no discretion to the medical examiner.
Question 4: Is a driver who is taking prescription methadone qualified to drive a CMV in interstate commerce?
Guidance: Methadone is a habit-forming narcotic which can produce drug dependence and is not an allowable drug for operators of CMVs.
Question 5: May the medical examiner restrict a driver’s duties?
Guidance: No. The only conditions a medical examiner may impose upon a driver otherwise qualified involve the use of corrective lenses or hearing aids, securement of a waiver or limitation of driving to exempt intracity zones (see §391.43(g)). A medical examiner who believes a driver has a condition not specified in §391.41 that would affect his ability to operate a CMV safely should refuse to sign the examiner’s certificate.
Question 6: If an interstate driver tests positive for alcohol or controlled substances under part 382, must the driver be medically re-examined and obtain a new medical examiner’s certificate to drive again?
Guidance: The driver is not required to be medically re-examined or to obtain a new medical examiner’s certificate provided the driver is seen by an SAP who evaluates the driver, does not make a clinical diagnosis of alcoholism, and provides the driver with documentation allowing the driver to return to work. However, if the SAP determines that alcoholism exists, the driver is not qualified to drive a CMV in interstate commerce. The ultimate responsibility rests with the motor carrier to ensure the driver is medically qualified and to determine whether a new medical examination should be completed.
Question 7: Are drivers prohibited from using CB radios and earphones?
Guidance: No. CB radios and earphones are not prohibited under the regulations, as long as they do not distract the driver and the driver is capable of complying with §391.41(b)(11).
Question 8: Is the use of coumadin, an anticoagulant, an automatic disqualification for drivers operating CMVs in interstate commerce?
Guidance: No. Although the FHWA 1987 "Conference on Cardiac Disorders and Commercial Drivers" recommended that drivers who are taking anticoagulants not be allowed to drive, the agency has not adopted a rule to that effect. The medical examiner and treating specialist may, but are not required to, accept the Conference recommendations. Therefore, the use of coumadin is not an automatic disqualification, but a factor to be considered in determining the driver’s physical qualification status.