Background on Medical Expert Panels
Author: Matthew McQuillan, J.D.
Any medical professional seeking to become certified to conduct examinations on potential commercial vehicle drivers should be familiar with the role of a Medical Expert Panel (MEP). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created the MEPs as part of its Medical Program to provide the agency with advice and expert opinions on medical standards for commercial drivers. The goal of the Medical Program, including the MEPs, is to improve overall safety on the nation’s highways.
Information and treatments for certain conditions obviously evolve over time. Conditions that posed a danger when the FMCSA’s medical standards were implemented may no longer effect highway safety. When the FMCSA has questions about a particular medical condition or disease, it convenes a MEP to examine it and issue a report. MEP reports have been issued to the FMCSA on sixteen medical topics including diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, sleep disorders, and traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Each convened MEP is made up of expert scientists, clinicians, and physicians. In order to create recommendations, the panel reviews existing literature, analyzes outside data, and even conducts its own research in order to generate its recommendation report to the FMCSA. For example, the report generated in 2010 on the effect of TBI on highway safety examined data from driving tests, medical studies, and accidents. The MEP detailed its analysis of each piece of evidence examined and provided responses to questions posed by the FMCSA. In addition to the report, which is made public, the MEP’s recommendations may also be presented in public forums like medical review boards. The MEP’s recommendations and evidence do not have the force of law. As with any administrative rule change, the FMCSA must publish its proposed revisions for public comment before it may proceed with implementation.