The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set a Sept. 30 deadline for medical examiners to submit results of physical qualifications examinations of truckers conducted during the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners outage from Dec. 1, 2017, through Aug. 12 of 2018.
The National Register was taken offline by a cyber-attack, meaning medical examiners were unable to upload examination results. The medical examiners were encouraged to continue conducting physical qualification examination results and issuing certificates to qualified CMV drivers.
The medical examiners were also informed that they should segregate all examinations completed during the outage and be prepared to upload them to the National Register when the system was back online.
The system went back online in August of 2018, using a temporary system. In June of that year, FMCSA sent an email to all medical examiners explaining that FMCSA was not requiring them to upload results from the outage period and indicated there would be an extension for them to upload those exams.
FMCSA reports that approximately 14,000 medical examiners still have outstanding results to upload.
The registry outage was cited in a Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) report that found ongoing IT issues with the agency.
The audit found the outage partly responsible for 46 percent of the registry’s 70,208 medical examiner records having outdated medical license information. But it also found through a sample analysis from three state driver’s licensing agencies (SDLAs) that 21 percent of the exams were not recorded in the registry.
“These data quality issues occurred in part because of data availability and monitoring limitations that occurred after the National Registry was taken offline,” the OIG stated. “Without quality data, FMCSA cannot effectively ensure that drivers meet physical qualification standards to operate a commercial vehicle safely.”
In April, the FMCSA proposed extending until June 2025 a deadline for working out IT issues beyond those caused by the outage.
“This action is being taken to provide FMCSA time to complete certain IT system development tasks for its National Registry and to provide the State Driver’s Licensing Agencies sufficient time to make the necessary IT programming changes after the new National Registry system is available,” it said.
The American Trucking Associations said in May that it is “concerned that varying requirements across the country will create a greater patchwork of procedures for drivers and carriers to follow. As such, FMCSA must ensure that proper notification, guidance, and instructions are provided if any SDLA modifies its submission procedures.”
FMCSA planned to implement a new National Registry system this summer but in April asked the implementation date to be pushed back to June of 2025.
The OIG report addressed the delays and issued four recommendations to FMCSA.
“As a result, there is a risk that FMCSA will not meet its planned June 2021 compliance date for the Medical Examiner’s Certification Integration final rule. In addition to issues associated with the National Registry outage and rebuild, weaknesses associated with the accuracy and completeness of data in the current National Registry limit the effectiveness of FMCSA’s oversight of its medical certification program.”
The OIG made four recommendations to the FMCSA administrator to improve oversight of the agency’s medical certificate program once a new registry is in place:
· 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.
FMCSA agreed the four recommendations, and proposed actions with completion dates, according to the OIG. “Accordingly, we consider all recommendations resolved but open pending completion of the planned actions.”