The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed to delay the full implementation of its National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners website until June 2025.
The reason is FMCSA’s new information technology (IT) contractor needs one year to completely rebuild the website. Also, state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) need three years to adopt the new technical specifications for the secure electronic transmission of medical examiner certificate information.
The registry was hacked in December 2017, leading to the website being shut down for seven months. That shutdown generated an audit this past January by the Inspector General (IG) of the U.S. Transportation Department. The IG criticized FMCSA for weaknesses in its medical data oversight, including an estimated 780,000 driver examinations missing from the registry.
The National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners still exists online. Truck drivers can continue to find certified medical examiners to conduct the physical examinations required for completion and renewal of commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and commercial learner’s permits (CLPs). But the website has yet to achieve its planned purpose of facilitating the secure electronic transmission of:
- driver identification and examination results from FMCSA to SDLAs;
- medical exemption information from FMCSA to the SDLs and;
- driver identification, examination results and restrictions from SDLAs to the Commercial Driver’s License Information Service (CDLIS) used by roadside enforcement.
The website shutdown underscores why the delay matters to truck drivers and to motor carriers.
Until the national registry website is fully operational as intended, motor carriers will still need to verify that their CDL and CLP drivers were approved by a certified medical examiner listed on the national registry. Truck drivers will still need to provide their SDLA with a paper copy of the Medical Examiners Certificate. SDLAs, in turn, will still need to process paper.
All of that will, ultimately, be conducted electronically, saving motor carriers one step in their maintenance of accurate driver qualification files. This will also save drivers the time and travel to ferry paperwork to state offices, and preventing the introduction of falsified documents into federal and state driver databases. First, though, the system must be rebuilt to work securely.
Compatibility and communication between federal, state and private sector IT systems has long been a challenge, as recently seen in the delay of Entry-Level Driver Training regulations.
The private sector may be more nimble in adopting technological advances than government agencies, but there is an underlying reason. Government agencies depend on legislative authorization and budgets to make changes. Once a federal agency, in this case the FMCSA, is ready to upgrade its IT, the new technical specifications required of state agencies may necessitate action by 50 state legislatures.
Not every state legislature meets annually or handles budgetary matters each year. That is why when FMCSA adopts new safety measures, it allows states three years to adopt compatible regulations. And that is why, once FMCSA rebuilds the national registry website, the same three years are allowed here for transition to a compatible IT system.
FMCSA is taking public comments on this proposed delay until May 24, 2021.