According to a press release from the Georgia Department of Driver Services, the rule went into effect January 2012. Approximately 328,000 drivers hold commercial drivers licenses in Georgia, the release states, so DDS is urging drivers and employees to be proactive in providing such medical information. The rules, which fall under the Federal Medical Certification Requirements, also asks drivers to provide information on the type of commercial vehicle they drive, or expect to drive, with their CDL. Drivers who do not certify their medical status may lose their CDL, according to the release.
Susan Sports, a DDS public information officer, said approximately 80 percent of commercial drivers in Georgia have complied with the law.
“We started this several years ago. We’ve mailed out notifications to the drivers, letting them know that the deadline is nearing and all the different ways they can comply,” she said. “We’re about 80 percent complete, approximately 80 percent complete, and then the remaining ones we have no way of knowing — do they still want their CDL? ... Or have they moved or whatever? We believe we’ve reached more than that, but we’re not sure. At least some of those will still need to fulfill their requirements.”
Samuel Puckett, instructor of commercial truck driving at Chattahoochee Technical College, has already worked some of the requirements into his classes for new drivers. He has them fill out their paperwork in the class, with copies of any necessary documents, and submit it to DDS. It saves time for his students, and time is at a premium for drivers, he said.
“So they get [it] knocked out of the ballpark and they don’t have to worry about it until two more years down the road. After two more years the DOT card that they have will expire. That’s providing they don’t have any health issues,” Puckett said. “If they have some health issues such as high blood pressure, there’s just a vast host of things that ... would limit them to a six-month card, a 90-day card or a one-year card. Nonetheless, they still have to make that happen every six months, three months or every year, no later than two years.”
Sports explained the medical card allows law enforcement and employers direct access to a driver’s medical history, which is necessary when large commercial vehicles are involved.
Puckett said drivers go through a medical examination to test their vision, blood pressure and other vital signs. A series of yes or no questions regarding a driver’s health are asked as well, but Puckett believed those questions could allow a driver to falsify part of a medical report.
“They do check you out pretty good, but a lot of those questions that they ask, the yes/no type questions, could be — you know, it happens, I’m certain. There again, that would fall on the driver,” he said. “If the driver says no to a question he should have said yes to, and then he’s involved in an accident that’s severe enough for the investigations [to] occur, and they find out he was fraudulent and shouldn’t have been driving because he wasn’t physically fit, and he answered that question with a ‘no,’ then he’s looking at probably jail time if it’s serious enough. So that’s one of those things that keep more drivers honest. They don’t want to put themselves in jeopardy because you never know when that person might pull out in front of you.”
For drivers going out of Georgia, Puckett believed the necessary examinations and filings could be difficult when drivers are limited to 14-hour workdays, and 11 driving hours within that time. Breaks count against that time as well, he said.
To make filing their medical card more convenient, Sports said DDS will accept the paperwork via mail, fax and email. The department has also set up a website, www.georgiatruckdriver.com, as a main source of information on the law’s requirements. DDS has also given drivers the ability to create an online account where they can manage personal information, update that information and see that it has been received.
“[We’re] just trying to make it more convenient. We’re always looking for ways to move services that can be moved out of the center because it affects, of course, the overall wait time and makes it more convenient for customers,” Sports said.
For more information, visit www.georgiatruckdriver.com or www.dds.ga.gov and click “contact us.”