WASHINGTON — A report released last week by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Inspector General revealed that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has fallen short in meeting oversight requirements while rebuilding the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
As part of its mission, the FMCSA oversees its medical-certification program and promotes safety through regulations, policies and monitoring of certified medical examiners and driver examinations. The purpose of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, initiated in 2014, is to verify that medical examiners can effectively determine if interstate commercial drivers meet FMCSA’s physical qualification standards.
In 2019, as fatalities in crashes involving large trucks or buses increased by 10.6% over a five-year period, an audit of FMCSA’s oversight was initiated due to the significant safety risk posed by drivers who do not meet physical qualification requirements. The audit analyzed FMCSA’s procedures in validating and maintaining data quality in the registry and monitoring medical examiner eligibility and performance and reviewing driver examinations.
“FMCSA’s ability to oversee whether drivers meet physical qualification standards to safely operate a commercial vehicle is limited because of a lengthy outage of the National Registry and a resulting backlog of driver examination reports that were not entered into the Registry,” the Office of Inspector General noted in a Jan. 13 statement. The report also notes that the effectiveness of FMCSA’s oversight is hampered by data that is not fully accurate or complete.
“FMCSA has not fully implemented requirements for random periodic monitoring of medical examiners’ eligibility and performance,” the statement continues. Initial certification reviews have been conducted to verify medical examiners’ eligibility, but FMCSA has not implemented annual audits. These periodic audits could result in the FMCSA missing fraud indicators or other risks.
FMCSA has been advised of the following recommendations following the audit:
- Implement Agency plans for eliminating the backlog of driver examination results held by medical examiners.
- Develop a plan to allocate resources to the Medical Programs Division to fully implement requirements for medical examiner eligibility audits and random selection performance monitoring.
- Update Agency processes for conducting periodic medical examiner eligibility audits and random selection performance monitoring as needed to incorporate upgraded National Registry tools.
- Reinstate the conduct of eligibility audits and random selection performance monitoring of medical examiners.
According to the Jan. 13 statement, FMCSA concurs with these recommendations to improve oversight of the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.
To review the report, click here.