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CDL medical exams, drug-testing requirements under stress

COVID-19 hampering CDL medical certification. Credit: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

The strain that the coronavirus is placing on medical facilities is making it more difficult for carriers to fulfill some of the regulations for keeping drivers on the road legally and may require more action from federal regulators.

Action by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) could come in the form of a waiver or temporary moratorium on parts 382 and 383 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) that address drug and alcohol testing and commercial driver’s license (CDL) standards. The emergency waivers issued so far apply specifically to goods and personnel moving in direct response to COVID-19.

“The big issue we’re dealing with now is the medical certification,” Tim Wiseman, a managing partner with the law firm Scopelitis, told FreightWaves. “A lot of drivers are having difficulty getting their medical exam,” which is required at least once every two years, and more frequently if the driver has a medical condition. “But given the coronavirus situation right now, a lot of drivers are having difficulty getting into a U.S. DOT-certified medical examiner because medical facilities are focused on these other issues.”

Wiseman pointed out that medical certification is tied to a CDL, and that in most states once a driver’s medical certification expires, their CDL is automatically suspended. “I think the FMCSA is looking to further expand exemptions to address issues where the driver’s CDL license is impacted because they can’t get into a doctor to perform their DOT medical exam.”

There’s also the question of drug testing. Many hospitals and clinics that would normally perform drug testing for drivers either for pre-employment screening or after an accident now do not have the capacity to accept healthy people for drug-test screening. That’s directly affecting carriers’ hiring process and driver work availability.

“The other issue is, drivers are reluctant to go to a hospital or clinic because they’re afraid of exposure to the coronavirus,” Wiseman said. “That’s a big concern for the drug-testing protocol right now for CDL drivers.”

Wiseman also said drivers should be aware of two parts of the FMCSR that are waived under the FMCSA’s current emergency declaration. Part 391, which covers driver qualifications, has a restriction against drivers under 21 hauling interstate. “So a carrier that has an employee under 21 could drive a commercial motor vehicle in emergency relief efforts,” he said.

Part 396, which addresses vehicle maintenance inspection, requires that all commercial vehicles be inspected by an authorized DOT inspector once a year. However, with the emergency exemption in place, if for some reason the driver can’t get his truck inspected and the one-year maintenance date has expired, “the driver can continue to provide relief efforts even though technically their truck is out of compliance,” Wiseman said.


  1. John Laidacker

    I still need my pot physical so I can keep driving can I get it done I’d local care center I live in Florida so I can go back Work

  2. Ramon Luis Gonzalez

    Hmm how about the fact that if you do get your medical recertification done how are you going to get it updated into the system when (at least here in NYC) the DMV location are all shut down until further notice

  3. Noble1

    Here is an emergency waiver , WAIVE DRIVING YOUR FREAKING TRUCKS for 14 days ! You drivers aren’t protected ! Are you suited up ? You hardly have a washroom with running water , a toilet , and a shower at your disposal !

    That’s what these clown regulators should have done . Shut down their countries for 14 days while is was occurring in Wuhan ,except for essential labourers catering to essential needs while taking all measures to protect these essential labourers and providing them with essential hygienic needs and protective suits etc !

    Then have everyone who are isolated stocked up with necessities for those 14 days through deliveries . In this way essential needs are controlled and aren’t hoarded due to panic buying . No citizen going to grocery stores except for essential labourers that work there to receive , ,shelf , pack , and deliver orders .

    An isolated person needs medication ? Then it would be delivered to their home . Food ? delivered to their home . A doctor for some booboo , doctor house visit unless extremely urgent due to needing an ambulance and hospitalization .

    These clowns can organize wars and pinpoint a fly with military precision and take it out , but when is comes to a pandemic they can’t structure and organize and they cause chaos due to their negligence ? wow !

    Doctors infected without realizing it and treating patients is darn right preventable negligence !

    Laughing at some of us that were on the ball when it hit in Wuhan while we were stating and reporting on it, even on this site, that people were dying like flies and some even collapsing like zombies in the streets . These so called regulators never thought that travelers would spread the disease ??? Really ? Come on man !

    Then the media began to state that what some of us were reporting in regards to people collapsing in the streets in Wuhan wasn’t true . REALLY ? 2 days ago the media in my province was reporting on a fellow that was isolated in his home due to being infected by the coronavirus . He said he felt so weak when it hit him , it felt like a ton of bricks and that he never felt anything so severe in his whole life . He was standing in his kitchen one day and began to feel dizzy and collapsed out cold in his kitchen . His wife came to help him and all she could do once he began to come back to consciousness was drag him to the bedroom where he slept for 20 hours straight . Fortunately for him he began to recoup slowly . This suggests that he experienced something similar to a very bad case of the flu . It tends to knock you out like that some times .

    How long did it take our so called leaders to “react” to this viral spread rather than really prevent it from expanding into our countries ?

    But now they want us to have faith in them ??? Wuhan built 2 hospitals in 6 freaking days because infection was spreading like wild fire from person to person ! We had AMPLE warning concerning its severity ! What were our leaders in Europe and North America doing then ? Living like nothing was , and people going on vacation in Europe and Asia and vice versa etc .

    In conclusion : We could have prevented this from spreading across Asian boarders .

    Hopefully we’ll learn a very important lesson through this experience . Apparently we haven’t learned from the prior one’s such as the pandemic that occurred in 1918 and those prior .

    The panic buying this time around was caused by our leaders neglect due to the media freaking out the public based on leader reports .

    Unbelievable ! Anyways , I’ve said all along , 2020 will be a great eye opener/awakener , at least for some of us that can see through BS . Would be nice if the general public would come to reason .

    Everyone of the so called leaders during this pandemic should not be voted in for another term , NOT ONE OF THEM !

    Time to clean house big time !

    In my humble opinion ………

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.