Medical Certificates, CDLs and Self-Certification

At the end of this month, the FMCSA will require all states to include truck drivers’ medical certification status and information on each trucker’s medical examiner’s certificate in each driver’s Commercial Driver’s License Information System record. There’s also the requirement to self-certify whether he or she is an interstate or intrastate hauler. What do truckers need to know and do to obey this new regulation?

Disclaimer: The FMCSA regulations covering Self-Certifying and a Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator’s Medical Examiner’s Certificate for truckers who operate as a for-hire or private fleet motor carrier in Interstate Commerce are governed under FMCSA 49 CFR part 391 and require compliance through maintaining and providing a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate to the trucker’s state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency. These are federal regulations and are in effect nation-wide.

Each state has its own rules and regulations covering who is excepted (exempt) and who is non-excepted (non-exempted) from presenting and maintaining a DOT Medical Examiner’s Certificate when concerning the operation of other types of non-commercial, government, farm, and emergency CMV operations. In this article, I have used State of Tennessee examples, which are some of the most stringent state medical examiner certificate regulations in the country. Please check with your state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency for clarification.

What must truckers do to comply with the new requirements for making their medical certification part of their CDL driving record?

Starting on January 30, 2012, when a person:

Applies for a CDL;
Renews a CDL;
Applies for a higher class of CDL;
Applies for a new endorsement on a CDL;
Or transfers a CDL from another state

The driver will be required to Self-Certify to a single type of commercial operation on his driver’s license application form. Based on that Self-Certification, the trucker may need to provide his state of residence’s Driver’s License Agency with a current medical examiner’s certificate and show any FMCSA variance he may have to obtain or keep a CDL.

Self-Certification – what is the procedure for a CDL holder to determine whether he is an Intrastate or an Interstate commercial driver?

Step 1: First he must know in what capacity he’s operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV), Interstate or Intrastate commerce?

Interstate Commerce is when the trucker drives a CMV under the following conditions:

From one state to another state or to a foreign country;
Between two places within a state, but during part of the trip, the truck crosses into another state or foreign country;
Or between two places within a state, providing the cargo is onboard for part of a trip that began or will end in another state or foreign country.

It isn’t where the truck and driver travels that determines the self-certification type, it’s where the freight in the truck or trailer originates or is delivered that determines under which Self-Certification a trucker would be classified.

Example: A trucker picks up a trailer from a yard in Memphis, Tennessee and drives it to Nashville, Tennessee. If the freight in the trailer was loaded in Olive Branch, Mississippi and the trailer is taken to Nashville and unloaded, it’s an Interstate Commerce load. Or, if instead of delivering in Nashville, another trucker backs under the trailer and takes it to Bowling Green, Kentucky, then it’s an Interstate Commerce load. Both instances require the trucker to Self-Certify as an Interstate Commerce Driver.

To be Self-Certified as an Intrastate Commerce Driver the trucker must; one, do all commercial truck driving within the borders of a single state and two; not haul any freight which originated outside of that state or which will be delivered outside the state as its final destination.

If a trucker operates in both intrastate commerce and interstate commerce, he must choose interstate commerce as his Self-Certification selection.

Simple enough so far, but then this is the government, and it would be a rare FMCSA regulation without a couple of twists.

So to complete the Self-Certification process, here’s the second step.

Step 2: Once a trucker decides whether he’ll operate in interstate commerce or intrastate commerce, he must decide whether he expects to operate in a non-excepted or excepted status. This decision will tell him to which of the four types of commerce he must Self-Certify: excepted interstate commerce, non-excepted interstate commerce, excepted intrastate commerce, non-excepted intrastate commerce.

Interstate Commerce:

To operate in excepted interstate commerce when driving a CMV in interstate commerce only for the following excepted activities:

If the CDL holder answers “yes” to one or more of the activities listed below as the only operation in which he drives, he operates in excepted interstate commerce and does not need a federal medical examiner’s certificate.

As federal, state or local government employees. (The exceptions to this are CDL holders who need a hazardous materials, passenger, or school bus endorsement. They are not considered exempt.)
To transport human corpses or sick or injured persons.
Fire truck or rescue vehicle drivers during emergencies and other related activities.
Primarily in the transportation of propane (winter heating fuel) when responding to an emergency condition requiring immediate response such as damage to a propane gas system after a storm or flooding.
In response to a pipeline emergency condition requiring immediate response such as a pipeline leak or rupture.
In custom harvesting on a farm or to transport farm machinery and supplies used in the custom harvesting operation to and from a farm or to transport custom-harvested crops to storage or market.
Beekeeper in the seasonal transportation of bees.
The vehicle is controlled and operated by a farmer, but is not a combination vehicle (power unit and towed unit), and is used to transport agricultural products, farm machinery or farm supplies (no placardable hazardous materials) to and from a farm and within 150 air-miles of the farm.
To transport migrant workers.

If the CDL holder answered “no” to all of the above activities, he operates in non-excepted interstate commerce and is required to provide a current medical examiner’s certificate (49 CFR 391.45), commonly referred to as a medical certificate or DOT card, to the state Driver’s Licenses Agency.

NOTE: The majority of CDL holders who drive CMVs in interstate commerce are non-excepted interstate commerce drivers.

If a CDL holder operates in both excepted interstate commerce and non-excepted interstate commerce, he must choose non-excepted interstate commerce to be qualified to operate in both types of interstate commerce.

What about Intrastate Commerce?

He operates in excepted intrastate commerce when he drives a CMV only in intrastate commerce activities for which his state of licensure does not require him to meet the state’s medical certification requirements. In the State of Tennessee as an example, there is two ways a CDL holder can be excepted from having to meet medical certification requirements when driving intrastate commerce:

One: If the person driving the CMV is an employee of the government and doesn’t transport passengers or HazMat.

Two: Drivers granted a waiver for vision or insulin controlled diabetes. (Intrastate only)

All other CDL holders in intrastate commerce in the State of Tennessee are required to have a Medical Certificate on file with the state. This is known as non-excepted intrastate commerce certification.

If a CDL holder operates in both excepted intrastate commerce and non-excepted intrastate commerce, he must choose non-excepted intrastate commerce and present his medical certificate to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security; in other words, a trucker drives for the government during the week and an intrastate motor carrier on the weekends.

NOTE: When it comes to Intrastate (or In-State) regulations covering medical certificates and the Self-Certification process for in-state driving positions, every state will have its own set of regulations. A driver should check with his state’s Driver’s License Agency’s CDL division for specific requirements for intrastate Self-Certification.

Step 3: Every CDL holder must provide the state Driver’s License Agency that issued his CDL with his Self-Certification of the driver’s operating status. If he Self-Certifies to non-excepted interstate on or after January 30, 2012, he must provide the state Driver’s License Agency with the original or copy of his current medical examiner’s certificate.

If the driver’s medical examiner’s certificate is only valid with a vision, diabetes or a skills performance evaluation variance granted by the FMCSA, he may also be asked by the Driver’s License Agency to provide a copy of that variance document.

What if the trucker is an existing CDL holder who does not have a license renewal, upgrade or transfer between January 30, 2012 and January 30, 2014?

He is responsible for following the three steps above and providing the state which issued his CDL with his Self-Certification of operating status by January 30, 2014. If required, he must also provide his current medical examiner’s certificate and any variance document by January 30, 2014. Most states will mail the trucker information on how to do this.

But he shouldn’t wait until the last minute, because if he doesn’t receive the notice or it’s lost in some other way, it doesn’t change the deadline of January 30th, 2014, and he could lose his privilege to drive a CMV until he presents the correct documents to his state’s Drivers License Agency.

After the trucker provides his state’s Drivers License Agency with his unexpired medical examiner’s certificate, does he still have to carry an original or copy of his medical examiner’s certificate?

Yes. Until the program is fully implemented on January 30, 2014, every trucker will still have to carry an original or copy of the medical examiner’s certificate and provide a copy to his employer for his driver qualification file.

What should a CDL Holder do with the medical examiner’s certificate beginning on January 30, 2014?

After the trucker provides his state’s Drivers License Agency and employer with the medical examiner’s certificate, the medical examiner’s certificate will only be valid for the first 15 days after it was issued. The trucker’s medical examiner’s certificate will be recorded on his driving record and will become the valid version of his medical certification. Again this is AFTER January 30, 2014. Until then, drivers must keep their medical certification cards with them at all times when operating a CMV.

What if the trucker doesn’t provide his state’s Drivers License Agency with his self-certification and if required, his medical examiner’s certificate and any required variance document by January 30, 2014?

The trucker’s state Drivers License Agency will notify him that he’s no longer medically certified to operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. That state’s Drivers License Agency will then remove all the trucker’s CDL privileges from his license.

What should a driver do when his medical certificate and/or variance is about to expire?

The driver must have a new medical examination and obtain a new medical certificate. He must then provide his state’s Drivers License Agency with the new medical examiner’s certificate. Each trucker is also responsible for applying to the FMCSA for a renewal of any variance.

What happens if the truck driver’s medical examiner’s certificate or variance expires before he provides his state’s Drivers License Agency with a new one?

The truck driver’s state Drivers License Agency will notify him that he’s no longer medically certified to operate a CMV in non-excepted interstate commerce. The truck driver’s state Drivers License Agency will then remove all his CDL privileges from his driver’s license.

How can a trucker get back his CDL privileges?

If the medical examiner’s certificate has expired, he must obtain a new one and provide it to his state’s Driver’s License Agency. If the variance has expired, he must renew it with the FMCSA. Some states may require retesting and additional fees to get back his CDL privileges. If allowed by his state’s Driver’s License Agency, he may also change his Self-Certification to an operating category that does not require a medical certificate.

Bottom line is, if you move freight, chances are you’ll need to Self-Certify as non-excepted Interstate Commerce and provide your state’s Driver’s License Agency, bureau, or department with your current medical certificate.

Truckers and motor carriers need to stay on top of getting this done to avoid being shut down because a state pulled a driver’s CDL privileges.

Here’s to great loads and good roads.

Timothy Brady © 2012 Contact Brady through www.timothybrady.com/contactus
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