An estimated 14,000 medical examiners have less than two months to submit the results of truck driver physical qualification exams conducted during a nine-month database outage three years ago.
In a notice scheduled to be posted on Monday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stated that “upload functionality” into the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (MEs) was fully restored on Aug. 13, 2018. “FMCSA is aware that while many MEs have submitted results of examinations conducted while the National Registry was offline, others still have not done so.”
MEs had been encouraged to continue conducting physical exams for drivers and issuing certificates to those who qualified during the outage — which began Dec. 1, 2017, as the result of a cyberattack — but MEs were told to segregate the exams and be prepared to upload them when the system was fixed.
The FMCSA explained that while MEs were technically able to upload the prior exam results when functionality was restored, the agency was concerned that the system would not be able to handle the surge of uploads that had been delayed along with the usual daily activity, so it has been providing more time to submit the results to spread out the system’s workload.
“Due to continued improvements to the National Registry system, FMCSA is no longer concerned about the increased activity of uploading results of examinations that occurred during the National Registry outage,” it stated.
The registry outage was cited in an audit made public in January that was conducted by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that found ongoing IT problems. The audit found the outage partly responsible for 46% of the registry’s 70,208 ME records having outdated medical license information. But it also found through a sample analysis from three state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) that 21% of the exams were not recorded in the registry.
“These data quality issues occurred in part because of data availability and monitoring limitations that occurred after the National Registry was taken offline,” the OIG stated. “Without quality data, FMCSA cannot effectively ensure that drivers meet physical qualification standards to operate a commercial vehicle safely.”
In April, the FMCSA proposed extending until June 2025 a deadline for working out IT issues beyond those caused by the outage.
“This action is being taken to provide FMCSA time to complete certain [IT] system development tasks for its [National Registry] and to provide the State Driver’s Licensing Agencies sufficient time to make the necessary IT programming changes after the new National Registry system is available,” it said.
The American Trucking Associations commented in May that while it appreciates the extended deadline to help SDLAs, “we are concerned that varying requirements across the country will create a greater patchwork of procedures for drivers and carriers to follow. As such, FMCSA must ensure that proper notification, guidance, and instructions are provided if any SDLA modifies its submission procedures.”
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