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Hurry up and wait, wait, wait, wait for it

The day of reckoning is almost here. Oh wait, it’s not. Or maybe it is…what is going on with the federal medical merge program for CDL holders? Until this week, all CDL holders nationwide were required certify to their home state driver’s license agency what their operational status was…by January 30th…2014. Interstate, intrastate, excepted, non-excepted….AUGHHHH! What does it all mean? If you are a trucker, you may very we’ll be scratching your head. What if you are the police? How does this all affect enforcement in Illinois? The article this week will help prepare both professions for enforcement of medical merge.

Earlier this week, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced they would be extending the deadline for one year until January 30th, 2015. This was primarily due to several states that implemented their certification programs late and had very little compliance. Illinois was a leader in this program, starting it in early 2012, leaving only 13.8% of CDL holders non-certified by the time of the rule extension.

Then, out of nowhere, Illinois realized it has a problem. When the FMCSA enacted the medical merge rule, it required states to pass their own statute requiring this change. Illinois, being a forerunner in the process, complied. Now Illinois has a law on the books stating CDL holders must have their certification done by January 30th, 2014 or have their CDL cancelled on January 31st.

Which law takes precedence? The federal law, or the state law which was mandated by the federal law? At the time of this publication, no one quite knows. Rest assured there is an answer coming soon from the legal scholars.

So back to medical merge….

The most important thing to understand is that all CDL holders, every last one, must certify as one of the four: NI, EI, NA, EA. It does not matter if you are a current or former driver, you have to certify. It does not matter if you think you need a medical certificate or not. If you have a CDL, you have to certify by January 30th (2014? 2015?) or you will lose your CDL.

The second step is to determine if you are an interstate or intrastate driver.  You live in Illinois. Do you drive a vehicle which requires a CDL across state lines? If so, you are an interstate.  Do you operate two CDL worthy vehicles in two different states, but never drive either one of them across state lines? If so, you are interstate. If this is you, you must declare either “NI” or “EI”, because the “I” stands for “interstate”.

Do you only drive CDL vehicles within Illinois? Then you are an intrastate driver. You must declare either “NA” or “EA”, because the “A” states for intrastate.

The third step is to determine whether you are “non-excepted” or “excepted”.  In both interstate and intrastate certifications, the “N” stand for “non-excepted” and the “E” stands for “excepted”.  The trick is to not overthink this.  Everyone driving a CDL vehicle is required to have a medical card, unless they don’t.  Those with exceptions are “excepted” from the regulation.  Those who are required to have the medical card are “non-excepted”.

The easiest way to determine whether you are excepted or non-excepted is to assume you are non-excepted, and then see if there is a reason why you might be excepted.  There are a lot of exceptions to the medical certificate, and you can read them all HERE. The reality is 95% of all excepted CDL holders fall into three professions: farming, government and school bus drivers.

Just because you are excepted driving one CDL vehicle does not mean you are excepted driving all CDL vehicles.  A CDL holder may work for the public works department and thereby is excepted from the medical card requirement while operating those vehicles.  However, he has a side-job on the weekends driving a semi for-hire, he is non-excepted. He will have to certify as either NI or NA, depending if he is interstate or intrastate.

All non-excepted interstate CDL holders are required to have a medical card under federal law, and must show the medical card when they certify.  Some states, like Illinois, adopt the federal regulations for intrastate operations as well.  Therefore, intrastate CDL holders operating a CDL vehicle are required to have a medical card. The difference is Illinois does not require non-excepted intrastate (NA) drivers to provide the medical card when they certify. Instead, they must have it at roadside if they are inspected by the Illinois State Police.

And there it is…the enforcement of this law. The purpose of this law is too merge the requirement of medical certificates with the CDL. It does not merge enforcement authority.

At the stroke of midnight on January 31st (2014? 2015?), all CDL holders who have not certified will be cancelled. All police officers in Illinois have the authority to enforce operating a CDL worthy vehicle with a cancelled/suspended/revoked CDL or not having a CDL when required. But that is the end of universal enforcement.

This law does not authorize local police officers to enforce the lack of a medical certificate when required or operating under the wrong certification. When a local police officer runs a CDL and the response says “Valid”, it is a valid CDL.  Illinois CDL holders who have certified as “NI” and are current with the reporting of their medical certificate to the Secretary of State will have an additional “Medically Certified” status as well. The lack of this extra status is of no concern to local police officers.

These are Illinois State Police issues only. It is important for all truck enforcement officers to have a working knowledge of this law, but in this case knowledge is not power.

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