The federal government has given states until the end of this month to start digitally tracking the health of truck drivers. It’s been a challenge to make Tennessee’s 30-year old computer system comply with the new mandate, but officials here say it is worth the effort.
The federal government has long required truckers who cross state lines for work to get checked out by a doctor at least every two years, to make sure their health meets certain standards. For example, drivers can’t have substantial hearing loss or very high blood pressure.
The state already needed to see a driver’s medical card before renewing most commercial driver’s licenses. But Cindy Johnson with the Tennessee Department of Safety says there was a little too much wiggle room in the system.
“So, in between renewal cycles if they had a five-year license, they could have let that medical card lapse in between. They may not be qualified to drive commercially. We would have no way of knowing that.”
As of January 30th, drivers will submit any new medical card to the state, and the state is then required to put that information into a national database.
The process was designed to help the federal government monitor drivers, but Johnson says it will also tighten Tennessee’s control over licensing. And she says being able to search the records may help the state identify when drivers or doctors submit fraudulent medical certificates.
Federal highway dollars are tied to the state’s ability to start digitally recording and sending the information to Washington. Johnson couldn’t cite a hard figure, but said “tens of millions” would have been on the line if Tennessee hadn’t met this month’s deadline.