FMCSA issues interim final rule delaying certain aspects of Medical Certificate integration

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Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration chief Ray Martinez wasn’t kidding when he told The Trucker News Organization Thursday that it’s imperative FMCSA gets its computer systems upgraded and generating good data.

FMCSA Monday issued an interim final rule delaying certain aspects of its Medical Certification integration in order to give FMCSA and state licensing entities more time to get their IT systems coordinated and up to speed.

The delay changes the deadline from June 22 this year to June 22, 2021.

The FMCSA Administrator said prior to his confirmation hearings that the agency’s information technology (IT) infrastructure is one of his three top priorities, the other two being safety issues and expanding and enhancing relationships with trucking industry stakeholders.

“Our IT infrastructure is a challenge,” Martinez told reporters Thursday. “If your IT infrastructure is not up to the task it is being assigned, then you are going to have a challenge.”

He said the agency must have good data on which to base its decisions and that so much of that data is related to the health of the agency’s IT systems.

In the interim, certified medical examiners or CMEs will continue issuing the original paper certificate to qualified drivers; drivers will continue giving state licensing agencies their medical examination certificates and carrying the certificates with them; motor carriers will continue verifying their drivers have been certified by a CME listed on the National Registry and state licensing agencies will continue to process paper copies of examiners’ certificates (Form MCSA-5876) they receive from CDL holders and commercial learner’s permit holders.

The interim rule doesn’t change the fact that CMEs must report results of all CMV drivers’ examination results in which the driver was unqualified, by midnight of the calendar day following the exam.

“We have such a broad base of constituencies here that we are required to deal with, that we must be reliant on good IT infrastructure,” Martinez said Thursday.

“ … We see that now with the medical registry, which is one of our biggest challenges. There are no quick fixes with this.

“We are dealing with outdated technology that has to be updated on the one hand, and then on the other hand, we deal with a lot of personal identifiable information, sensitive information to carriers, drivers and medical professionals.”

Consequently, he said, there’s a trust involved that the data received by the agency is secure and that it’s dealt with in a legal manner.

The agency is also working to make its information more “customer-friendly” and easier to access, Martinez said.

FMCSA has had a computer upgrade on its calendar for quite some time, but Martinez said he didn’t think there would be an end to it “because technology is constantly evolving.”

The agency is working with DOT on specific IT challenges, he said, as well as with “some of the strongest companies in the field that work on both the data security and on designing customer-friendly interfaces, and those are the areas that we always have to look at.”

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