780,000 driver medical exams could be missing from FMCSA database
A seven-month outage of a medical examiner registry maintained by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has resulted in approximately 780,000 driver examinations potentially missing from the database, a federal watchdog has revealed.
An audit report of the FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners issued Friday by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) also found that 46% of the registry’s 70,208 records of certified medical examiners as of May 2019 had outdated medical license information. In addition, a sample analysis from three State Driver’s Licensing Agencies revealed that 21% 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.”
FMCSA created the national registry in 2014 in response to a federal law requiring that the agency verify that medical examiners can determine if truck drivers meet FMCSA’s physical qualifications. Physicians must be registered with the registry to perform the driver exams.
But the seven-month outage, which started in December 2017, resulted in a backlog of driver exams that never got entered.
According to the OIG, FMCSA established an interim solution in April 2018 that provided basic functions of the system until it could transition to a new National Registry system in May 2019 “but due to technical issues, FMCSA reverted to the interim solution, which remains in place,” the report stated, noting that it is unclear when a new system will be complete.
“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.”