June 2014

National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

Well, well, well ... the date for compliance with the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners regulation is finally upon us. Why is the National Registry necessary? This question is asked not by us, but by FMCSA on their website. Seems like a fair question. As we all have been told, FMCSA developed this reg “as part of the agency’s commitment to enhancing the medical oversight of interstate drivers, and preventing commercial vehicle-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.”

Many among us have some skepticism about the ultimate impact of this regulation and just how effective it might be in achieving its stated goals. The list of medical professionals who may serve as examiners “includes but is not limited to doctors of medicine, doctors of osteopathy, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, and doctors of chiropractic.” Now of course, they must be trained and tested … and re-tested periodically. But they needn’t be medical doctors… and it does seems quite possible there may be some areas (especially at the outset) that are underserved by properly credentialed examiners which could lead to some inconvenience for drivers and motor carriers?

This, from FMCSA.DOT.gov -- “FMCSA establishes a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (National Registry) with requirements that all medical examiners who conduct physical examinations for interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers meet the following criteria: Complete certain training concerning FMCSA's physical qualification standards, pass a test to verify an understanding of those standards, and maintain and demonstrate competence through periodic training and testing. Following establishment of the National Registry and a transition period, FMCSA will require that motor carriers and drivers use only those medical examiners on the Agency's National Registry and will only accept as valid medical examiner's certificates issued by medical examiners listed on the National Registry. FMCSA is developing the National Registry program to improve highway safety and driver health by requiring that medical examiners be trained and certified so they can determine effectively whether a CMV driver's medical fitness for duty meets FMCSA's standards.”

No need to panic. Compliance is required only as curent DOT physicals expire ...you can go to the Registry to find an examiner here:

https://nationalregistry.fmcsa.dot.gov/NRPublicUI/Drivers.seam

Moving Ahead for Progress?

And now it appears the Federal Government may move to increase the required minimum limits for insurance on motor carriers. As required under federal law

(Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21; P.L. 112-141)

This was released by FMCSA in April: Report to Congress: Examining the Appropriateness of the Current Financial Responsibility and Security Requirements for Motor Carriers, Brokers, and Freight Forwarders.

“FMCSA has determined that the current financial responsibility minimums are due for re-evaluation. The Agency has formed a rulemaking team to further evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility for the motor carrier industry and has placed this rulemaking among the Agency’s high priority rules. The FMCSA will continue to meet with the stakeholders, including impacted industries, safety advocacy groups, and private citizens, as it moves forward with developing a proposed rule.”

The Feds make several observations which would all seem to be arguing in the direction of increasing the required insurance limits. Their reasoning basically goes like this: Catastrophic crashes are infrequent; in less than 1% of occurrences they exceed the insurance limits of the motor carrier. And the cost of claims is increasing over time (they blame this mainly on increased medical costs). They say insurance premiums have declined in real terms since the 1980s. Although they curiously also pointed out that liability insurance carriers are close-lipped about what rates their motor carrier clients are currently paying thus accurate data about current premiums is not readily available: “The insurance underwriting process is specific to individual motor carriers, and there are no uniform pricing practices (other than limits that might be imposed by State regulations). The insurance industry participants are protective of their pricing for competitive reasons, and available information was largely generic and limited. Motor carrier risk managers were also cautious regarding disclosing their insurance premium expenses. The study, therefore, did not assess potential insurance premium increases as a regulatory cost.” (emphasis added).

Here are the bullet points of this section of the report as published by the DOT:

Catastrophic motor carrier-related crashes are relatively rare. (Less than 1% of total accidents.)

However, costs for such severe and critical injury crashes when they do occur can easily exceed $1 million

Current insurance limits do not adequately cover catastrophic crashes, mainly because of increased medical costs.

Comprehensive data on premiums that motor carriers would incur to meet higher coverage limits were not readily available.

However, Insurance premiums have declined in real terms since the 1980s. The conclusory language is clear: “The current minimum financial responsibility levels for motor carriers of property, hazardous materials, and passengers were established in the 1980s. Catastrophic crashes involving CMVs are relatively rare occurrences. When catastrophic and severe/critical injury crashes do occur, the costs of resulting property damage, injuries, and fatalities, can far exceed the minimum levels of financial responsibility. Over the past 29 years, while insurance premiums have declined, the decreasing real value of the current minimum levels has effectively removed the function of insurance in covering catastrophic crashes, as medical and other crash-related costs have increased significantly. The legislative history of the Federal minimum insurance requirements strongly suggests that Congress recognized that crash costs would change and that DOT would regularly examine the levels and make adjustments as necessary. In conclusion, FMCSA has determined that the current financial responsibility minimums are inadequate to fully cover the costs of some crashes in light of increased medical costs and revised value of statistical life estimates. The Agency has formed a rulemaking team to further evaluate the appropriate level of financial responsibility for the motor carrier industry and has placed this rulemaking among the Agency’s high priority rules. The FMCSA will continue to meet with stakeholders, including industry, safety advocacy groups, and private citizens, as it moves forward with developing a proposed rule.” FMCSA will recommend increases in the minimum limits. Time will tell how large those recommended increases will be. Now THAT’S progress.

"The only person you should strive to be better than is the person you were yesterday."