By Julie Ann Madden
Currently, commercial drivers can have their DOT Medical Cards renewed by having examinations by a variety of doctors, chiropractors and physician assistants.
Soon, only certified medical personnel will be able to conduct CDL drivers’ Medical Card physicals.
Area truck drivers, farmers and school bus drivers will not have to go far to find certified medical examiners though.
Akron Mercy Medical Clinic medical staff has completed the course work and is just waiting to take the examinations for certification.
Dr. David Wolff, Dr. Cindie Wolff, Dr. Allison Schoenfelder and Physician’s Assistant Paul Niles will have the medical examiners certification by May 1 when the law change goes into effect.
But the law didn’t just change who can administer the physicals, it changed the examination process.
Any driver with any kind of chronic illness or medical problem such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea will need to provide certain medical documents at the time of the DOT physical examination.
Otherwise, they may be disqualified to drive — sometimes the disqualification is immediate, said Dr. Cindie Wolff.
For example, a driver with sleep apnea had been able to just tell the doctor he or she used their CPAC machine nightly and had no problems.
With the new law, the driver has to download the last three months of data from his/her machine. The data also must show a minimum percentage of usage.
“I actually have to have that download in my hand or I cannot certify them for the DOT physical,” said Dr. Cindie Wolff. “If I can’t certify them, it may mean they can’t drive when they leave our office.”
There are similar requirements for other chronic diseases — some include reports from specialists such as cardiologists.
“If drivers wait until the last moment, they may not be able to find a certified medical examiner or get into one before their card expires or they may not be able to get the documents they need by the time of the DOT physical,” said Dr. Cindie Wolff.
Wolff worries area farmers who have chronic medical problems may not be aware of this and will not be able to drive when it comes time for hauling livestock and crops to market.
“All of this is trying to make the roads safer, make the drivers safer, making the doctors do a better job to let the right people pass and for the right length of time,” she said, explaining the DOT Medical Card has always been issued for two years but now some may expire in just a year. “Because of the new regulations, I can’t tell you which ones will be affected. Everyone will be different — according to their medical conditions.”
“We want safe drivers on the road. On the other hand, for the drivers the exam is going to be much more rigorous,” said Wolff.
“We have a whole book of regulations. Some of the things that will be required of them will need time to be completed.”
“We’re suggesting people — if they have any chronic illness at all, they go to their doctor ahead of time — a month or so before their DOT medical card expires,” she said. “A pre-visit to find out what they need to get so they can get all their paperwork in order. Then they can pass their DOT physical with no problems rather than just go in for the DOT physical and we have to disqualify them.”
“Our concern is just getting people to know ahead of time, especially this first year of new regulations,” said Wolff.