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Knight-Swift gets exemption for driver medical records

FMCSA grants relief after truckload carrier argues against burdensome costs

Federal regulators have granted Knight-Swift Transportation [NYSE: KNX] a conditional exemption allowing the truckload giant to avoid what it has asserted are costly redundant medical record requirements for its drivers.

After assessing Knight-Swift’s application and three public comments, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that the company “would achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption,” the agency stated in a decision to be published Wednesday.

Knight-Swift argued in its application that because of its policy requiring all new driver hires to undergo a complete medical examination, the company ensures not only that the driver is properly qualified but that it is also protecting against medical fraud.

However, while Knight-Swift’s policy is not a federal requirement, it does trigger a federal law that requires the company obtain the results of the medical exam from the state drivers licensing agency (SDLA) in the form of an updated motor vehicle record (MVR).

“Knight-Swift objects to the cost and inconvenience of obtaining the MVR a second time when it recently obtained the MVR pursuant to hiring as required” by federal regulations, according to FMCSA’s decision. “It asserts that it is pointless to obtain ‘information that in most cases we have already verified within the previous few days’.”

Knight-Swift provided FMCSA with a sample pool of 5,722 newly hired drivers with valid 2-year medical cards. “After undergoing Knight-Swift’s hiring process, 19% of the sample pool drivers were downgraded to a 1-year certification and 2.1% were disqualified,” according to FMCSA. “Knight-Swift did not indicate whether it knew if these drivers (those holding a CDL) provided the new certification to the SDLAs issuing their licenses.”

FMCSA’s exemption allows the company to use newly hired drivers without having to obtain an MVR that reflects the latest medical certification status during the first year of employment. It is subject to three conditions, according to FMCSA:

  1. Knight-Swift must maintain the initial MVR reviewed prior to hiring the driver showing the driver was medically certified by a health care professional on the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
  2. The medical examiner’s report the company will rely upon for the first year of employment must be prepared by a health care professional on the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and be available for inspection by federal or state enforcement personnel during an investigation or compliance review.
  3. Knight-Swift must obtain reliable proof that the new medical examiner’s certificate was provided by the driver to the SDLA and include such proof in the driver qualification file.

Knight-Swift’s application generated just three comments, all opposing the application, FMCSA stated. “We all should have to follow the rules no matter how big or how small a company we are and to file to [sic] not have to follow the rules tells me why we see so many Swift wrecks on the highways and social media that we do,” according to commenter Art Meyer.

Knight Transportation had initially petitioned FMCSA for the record-keeping relief in 2016 before its merger with Swift. It noted in its second application, filed in December 2019, that it was refiling because the agency had not acted on its first petition.

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The FREIGHTWAVES TOP 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Knight-Swift Transportation (No. 3).

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.