When hiring new commercial drivers, you check driving records, prior employment, references, road test, drug test, and of course the doctor’s signature on the physical. But beyond that doctor’s approval, how closely do you examine the medical record and potential associated risks of your drivers?
All drivers with a commercial driver’s license are required to carry a medical examiner’s certificate verifying they are physically qualified to operate a motor vehicle. This certification comes in two forms: a credit card-size medical card with the driver’s name, license number, doctor’s name, and any waiver, exemption, or other notations. The alternative form of documentation is a two-page detailed medical history.
All employers should go beyond the medical card and examine the two-page physical examination form. This is where you will find out the important information about potential health or medical problems that may put your company and the driver at risk.
Your drivers not only represent you on the road and with your customers, but they are also your responsibility in the event of an accident.
Many employers are unfamiliar with all of the physical qualifications for commercial drivers under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. A driver may appear healthy but still not be medically qualified to be a commercial driver. The following are some of the important requirements that all employers should be familiar with when they review the driver’s detailed medical history.
- Eyesight must be at least 20/40. A notation must be made if this includes corrective lenses.
- Field of vision should be at least 70 degrees.
- Commercial drivers must recognize the colors and configuration of all traffic signs and signals.
- Blood pressure must be 140/90 or below.
- Drivers must be able to hear a forced whisper at not less than five feet in the better ear with or without a hearing aid, or cannot have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid.
- Drivers with physical impairments which affect their ability to safely operate commercial motor vehicles according to their medical examiners, or with missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot or leg), are required to obtain SPE (skill performance evaluation) certificates.
A medical examination is required at least every two years. But don’t assume that all forms are valid for that long. Some doctors may authorize a certificate for less than two years. For example, a driver with high blood pressure may get a medical release for three months. If at the end of this period their blood pressure is equal to or less than 140/90, a medical certificate will be issued for a one-year period. The driver must be certified annually thereafter. Without looking at the two-page forms, an employer may miss this critical information.
While it is important for the doctors to understand the physical requirements necessary for a commercial driver, it is ultimately the employer’s responsibility to ensure employees are in compliance.
Follow best practices, and obtain the complete long form medical examination and review it yourself. Are there any medical concerns that would prevent the driver from handling the rigors of being on the road? Make sure that you or someone in your company understands the physical requirements as outlined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. This keeps your drivers and others on the road safe, and it protects your business, too.