Blood Pressure Issue May Squeeze Drivers

Blood Pressure Issue May Squeeze Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is set to revise the wording of medical forms used to evaluate truck drivers that may encourage physicians to evaluate those with higher blood pressure more critically.

Effective September 30, medical forms will be required to include wording that would provide physicians with the following instructions:

  • An individual diagnosed with Stage 1 hypertension BP (blood pressure) is 140/90-159/99) may be certified for one year. At recertification, an individual with a BP equal to or less than 140/90 may be certified for one year; however, if his or her BP is greater than 140/90 but less than 160/100, a one-time certificate for 3 months can be issued.
  • An individual diagnosed with Stage 2 (BP is 160/100-179/109) should be treated and a one-time certificate for 3-month certification can be issued. Once the driver has reduced his or her BP to equal to or less than 140/90, he or she may be recertified annually thereafter.
  • An individual diagnosed with Stage 3 hypertension (BP equal to or greater than 180/110) should not be certified until his or her BP is reduced to 140/90 or less, and may be recertified every 6 months.

    According to Christina Cullinan, American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) director of workforce & fleet safety, these instructions are not mandatory. FMCSA’s current medical standard will remain unchanged after September, which hold that a person may drive a commercial motor vehicle if he/she “has no current clinical diagnosis of high blood pressure likely to interfere with the ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.”

    “It is up to the medical examiner ultimately whether or not they want to use the recommended blood pressure threshold,” said Cullinan.

    However, the inclusion of the text will underscore the threat of malpractice should a physician exercise judgment that goes outside the instructions, Cullinan explained. “Medical liability issues are almost always going to disqualify the driver if they don’t meet these guidelines. It’s [the technical amendment] almost effectively mandatory.”

    FMCSA considers this correction minor and “will not have a significant impact on a substantial number of small entities.”

    However, Cullinan says this could impact the available pool of qualified drivers during a time when drivers are already in very short supply.

    “It’s a stealth rulemaking from our [ATA’s] perspective because FMCSA came in through the backdoor to put these amendments in place— these were guidelines and were not subject to notification and a comment period.”

    To view the amendment, click here.

    FMCSA was contacted but unable to respond at press time.

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