Upcoming Changes for Commercial Driver's License Holders
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Upcoming Changes for Commercial Driver's License Holders


Associate VP

Regulations for CMV drivers are changing, in particular with regards to medical cards.  The changes affect various kinds of drivers differently. The rules remain the same as to which drivers need a federal medical certificate (Fed Med card) while operating a commercial vehicle, but drivers will now have to provide an up-to-date copy of this card to the DMV when they obtain it.  

As part of this process, all CDL holders will have to self-certify the type of classification in which they operate as well (which will determine their requirements for filing their Fed Med card with the state) by 2014, and some may have to do so earlier than that.

Changes to tracking drivers with federal medical certificates

Currently, all trucking companies are responsible for tracking the expiration of medical cards for their drivers.  If a Fed Med card expires, the company usually reminds the driver to get a medical exam and get a new card.

By January 2014, the states will be required to take this over and centralize tracking of which drivers are maintaining a valid Fed Med card.  If the state’s DMV doesn't have a card on file for a driver, they'll suspend their license. Most states are starting this process now to ensure compliance by 2014, beginning with those who are receiving Fed Med cards and CDLs for the first time or renewing them.

When drivers will have to comply with the new requirements

In all states, drivers who are required to file a Fed Med card will have to comply by January 30, 2014.  In most states you are now required to show your Fed Med card when renewing a CDL license for interstate commerce.  If you renew your CDL but don't show your medical card, you may be restricted to intrastate only as a result.  

A number of our clients have reported that their drivers have visited the DMV, renewed their license without showing the Fed Med card (since they haven’t had to in the past), and have later realized the license they got was restricted to intrastate commerce.  Make sure your drivers are aware of the new requirements!  Those who are renewing without realizing the new requirement are ending up with a restricted license.

From now, on any time drivers get a new medical card (good for 2 years) they will need to notify the DMV when it expires.  For specifics on requirements in your state, verify with the DMV. 

A new step in the process: reporting vehicle classifications

By January 30, 2014, all CDL holders will have to self-certify their type of vehicle operation, which will determine if they need to submit a Fed Med Card to the DMV or not. 

The new regulations do not change who is required to maintain a Fed Med card but they do require drivers to report their exemption if they have one.  CDL holders who do not file a Fed Med card with the DMV or report an exemption will be assumed to be non-compliant, and their licenses will be suspended January 30, 2014.

Who needs a Fed Med card to begin with?

To determine whether a driver needs to file a Fed Med card with the state, you need to know two things: are they an interstate or intrastate driver, and are they in an excepted industry? A driver is interstate if their load crosses state lines at any point during a normal trip. You are intrastate if your business is all conducted within the borders of one state. 

Exceptions are a little more difficult to determine. Each state can determine their own additional exceptions, but the DOT exceptions are:

  • All school bus operations
  • Any transportation for a political subdivision
  • Transportation of sick, injured, or deceased persons
  • Operation of fire trucks or rescue vehicles while involved in an emergency
  • Operation of vehicles designed or used to transport between 9 and 15 passengers not for direct compensation.
  • Transportation of propane winter heating fuel or responding to a pipeline emergency
  • Farm custom operations, including transporting machinery or crops
  • Operation of a CMV operated by a beekeeper transporting bees.
  • Operation of private motor carrier of passengers
  • Transportation of personal property not for compensation or commercial enterprise.

 Additional Wisconsin exceptions include:

  • Tow trucks (if requested by a federal, state, or local officer)
  • Grandfathered (held valid CDL since July 29, 1996 that has not been revoked)
  • Wisconsin diabetes exemption
  • Wisconsin vision exemption

Once you determine if you operate in an industry that is an exception, you can determine which tier a driver belongs to and whether they need to get a Fed Med card and report it.  Again, the new regulations don’t change who is required to get a card, but since failure to report can result in suspension of a driver’s CDL, it bears repeating.

Tier 1: Non-Excepted Interstate 

You need to provide a valid card to the DMV and maintain that the card is up-to-date on record when you renew or get a new one.

Tier 2: Excepted Interstate 

You do not need a Fed Med card. 

Tier 3: Non-Excepted Intrastate

 You need a valid Fed Med card and must provide it to the DMV when a license is issued, but no more. 

Tier 4: Excepted Intrastate 

You do not need a Fed Med card.

Make sure drivers are compliant with the requirements for their tier, taking note of any additional state or employer exceptions. Remind your team of the importance of this and carrying a Fed Med card (if applicable) so you can breeze through any roadside inspections and audits. 


Related Posts:

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The Health Crisis in the Trucking Industry

The Top 10 Ingredients of a High Performing Driver Scorecard

4 Carrier Relationship Tips to Limit Freight Broker Liability


What about those of us who hold a Class A CDL who are not currently employed as drivers? I am not planning to drive any time soon (only car or motorcycle) so why would I need a medical card?
Posted @ Sunday, September 02, 2012 6:04 PM by Ken Crosby
What states are currently requiring that the med card be filed at the time of renwal or initial application?
Posted @ Tuesday, September 04, 2012 10:24 AM by Terry R.
@Ken Contact your state to make sure. Probably would be listed as exempt either inter or intra (one of the classifications). Then the state would have that on file knowing you are not required to have a fed med. In the future if you decide to drive a cmv you would have to reclassify type of classification and if applicable register date of med card expiration. 
Posted @ Tuesday, September 04, 2012 3:41 PM by Don Jerrell
@Terry here's some information on the processes for filing med cards in different states: http://bit.ly/OY0b7d  
For more specific instructions, check with your state.
Posted @ Thursday, September 06, 2012 1:38 PM by Don Jerrell
I am trying to figure out if I am grandfathered to not need a fed med card. But I can't remember when I first got my cdl. How do I search for that?
Posted @ Sunday, June 23, 2013 11:44 AM by Mark Maurer
@Mark -- Here's what Don Jerrell, the blog author, had to say about your question: 
The grandfathering applies to intrastate and not interstate commerce and goes by state regulations. I can answer Wisconsin:  
(b) Drivers who have met state medical qualifications and have 
been issued a valid Wisconsin commercial driver’s license, or 
CDL, prior to July 29, 1996, which has not been revoked, and who 
continue to meet state medical requirements as found in ch. Trans 
Remember that you are not exempt from meeting the medical qualifications, just exempt from needing a medical card. 
Posted @ Monday, June 24, 2013 3:43 PM by Erin
Everyday is a new chance to make. You just have to stay focus and move forward.
Posted @ Tuesday, October 15, 2013 11:42 AM by Danny @ www.winwithkaren.com
when you renew your medical card are you required to go to a state certified doctor if you are intrastate all information we can find relates to interstate 
Posted @ Wednesday, May 07, 2014 3:48 PM by Alan
@Alan, according to our in-house transportation compliance expert, Don Jerrell, the best course of action is to see whether your state has adopted the federal regulations. If your state has adopted the federal rules, that's what you need to follow. Most states have adopted the federal regs, but some have made some exceptions. Time to do some homework!
Posted @ Thursday, May 08, 2014 8:40 AM by Erin
I believe it is unfair that people with a CDL can not receive a deferral on a traffic ticket and we are held to a higher standard than operator license we get screwed every time werll maybe we should just shut down and see how long it takes to get our rights back then America will stop
Posted @ Wednesday, December 03, 2014 1:45 PM by roger
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