Although some of the rules vary by state of licensure, all interstate commercial driver's license (CDL) holders must provide a current copy of their Medical Examiner's Certificate to their state's driver's licensing agency. This process, known as medical card self-certification, is an important step in ensuring that drivers meet the physical requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
While some states do not require that intrastate drivers must submit this medical evaluation, the federal regulations of the FMCSA apply across the board, so any CDL drivers who are required to travel between states must submit this form of verification.
Essentially, the process for application, though, is the same in every state: whether renewing, applying for or changing your CDL, you'll first select which type of commercial operation you will be performing with this license, then you may be asked to submit the Medical Examiner's Certificate if the operation requires it under FMCSR standards.
Intrastate and Interstate Commercial Drivers
While some states, like Pennsylvania, require even intrastate commercial operations to submit medical card self-certification, not all states do, and fortunately, FMCSA has compiled a complete list of state-by-state instructions for medical certification, which also provides contact information for governing agencies as well as the consequences for failing to keep the documentation up-to-date.
In general, the rules for which CDL drivers need and don't need federal medical examiner's certificate apply to every state's operators, and figuring out which types of operations do require these medical self-certifications is a fairly straight-forward process that ultimately comes down to whether or not the operator plans to carry cargo that crosses state lines.
Drivers who are exempt from submitting medical certificates are referred to as operating in excepted interstate or intrastate commerce, and those that do need to submit this form are referred to as being in non-excepted interstate or intrastate commerce.
Examples of those operating in except interstate commerce include those who operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce only for certain excepted activities including transporting school children or staff; providing transport as a federal, state, or local government employee; carrying sick, injured, or deceased persons; responding to emergencies with fire trucks or transport of winter heating fuel, etc; transporting farm or beekeeping equipment; carrying passengers for non-business purposes; or transporting migrant workers.
The Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999
Up until 1999, medical self-certification wasn't part of the federal government's regulations regarding commercial driver's licenses, but growing concerns for the health of long-distance interstate CDL drivers and safety of others on the road when many had been reported for using substances to stay awake longer than healthy forced Congress to pass a new resolution governing these drivers.
House Resolution 3419, the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999, established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration within the existing Department of Transit and laid out the groundwork for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations that would follow, namely through Sections 215 and 226 of "Title II: Commercial Motor Vehicle and Drive Safety:"
Section 226: Directs the Secretary to study and report to Congress on the feasibility and merits of requiring: (1) medical review officers to report all verified positive controlled substances test results on any driver, including the identity of such driver and such substance, to the State that issued the driver's commercial driver's license; and (2) all prospective employers, before hiring any driver, to query the license-issuing State on whether the State has on record any verified positive controlled substances test on such driver.
For more information regarding the federal regulations that govern commercial driver's licensure, disqualifying medical conditions and criminal records, and other details about the process of medical card self-certification, visit the official FMCSA website.