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In for the long haul

In for the long haul

August 26th, 2013 in News

Jesse Bowers of United Parcel Service freight division unloads items from a truck to a downtown Jefferson City business. Effective next May 21, a national registry will list all certified medical examiners (doctors who perform physical examinations on truck drivers). Currently, only one Jefferson City physician holds that certification.

One Jefferson City physician is part of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, a federal program that licenses physicians and outlines requirements for physical examinations for truck and bus drivers.

Although Dr. Earl Miller is the only certified medical examiner in Jefferson City, he is one of eight certified medical examiners within a 75-mile radius of the Capital City. His practice is located at 1705 Christy Drive.

Certified medical examiners complete physical examinations of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers, which Miller said can include school bus drivers, city bus drivers, firemen, or anyone involved with interstate commerce with a vehicle of 10,001 pounds or greater.

According to FMCSA, the registry needs 40,000 certified medical examiners by May 21, 2014. So far, 10,000 have signed up for training courses.

Beginning May 21, 2014, FMCSA will require all health professionals who perform physical examinations for CMV drivers to be certified, licensed and listed on the National Registry.

"As with other FMCSA programs, this program is about highway safety, particularly the safety of interstate commercial motor vehicle drivers and the general public on our highways," said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro in a safer highways podcast.

According to FMCSA, more than 4,000 people were killed and more than 100,000 injured in large truck and bus crashes in 2011.

"The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found evidence that improper medical certification of CMV drivers with serious disqualifying medical conditions has directly contributed to significant fatal and injury crashes," Ferro said. "FMCSA wants to remove driver health as a factor in these crashes."

She said the National Registry requires medical examiners to be trained on FMCSA's regulations and guidelines, the CMV driver's role and how certain medical conditions can impair a driver.

"Through this initiative, we can increase the likelihood that CMV drivers on the road are mentally and physically able to perform their jobs safely," Ferro said.

Harvey Kempker, a co-owner of Anthony Kempker Trucking in Jefferson City, said he knows some about the changes that will go into effect regarding certified medical examiners, but he doesn't know everything.

"It'll affect us some because we've been getting physicals for a long time, but we've been getting them from our own personal doctors," Kempker said. "So, now I guess we're going to have to switch. If there's only one (certified medical examiner) in Jefferson City, there's an awful lot of truck drivers in Jefferson City for one guy to handle."

Not only is Miller part of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, he also teaches certification courses for physicians to become a part of the Registry.

Miller teaches certification through the American Osteopathic College of Occupational and Preventive Medicine in Kirksville. Once physicians complete the 8.5-hour course and pass an exam, they become certified and are added to the National Registry.

He said there are certain things physicians are taught to look for during a physical examination of CMV drivers.

"They're going to look real hard at high blood pressure, amputees, coronary disease, heart disease, brain injury and neurology," Miller said. "Hearing and vision are also high on the list."

He said conditions, such as being a diabetic on insulin or only having one eye, can cause drivers to fail examinations.

Examinations are so thorough that Miller said one examination could easily take two and half hours.

"It's not a walk in, take your blood pressure, look in your nose, ears and throat and go home," Miller said. "Can the man or woman climb up on a trailer and unload lumber? You have to have their job description to see if they fit that description."

Miller said he wanted to become a certified medical examiner because of the public safety issue.

"I saw developing a subset of drivers who I felt were probably not the safest people to be out there," he said. "I felt that if I could educate these people and talk to them and get them lined out, then maybe several of them could drive safely."

He wants to protect not only the safety of the drivers, but also the safety of the public.

"Trucks can easily have 8,000 pounds on them," Miller said. "To stop that truck is hard to do. The momentum is there and if they're going 65 miles per hour and they lay on the brakes, they don't stop very fast."

He said FMCSA and certified medical examiner instructors are taking the National Registry project very seriously.

"All the people I've been working with are very dedicated to making the roads safer for the trucker themselves and for us being on the road with them," Miller said. "We're not out to get anybody, and we're not out to penalize anybody. We're looking after their health and safety."