(This article first appeared in the January-February 2018 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)
By Motor Vehicle Service Craft Directors
On Feb. 26, 1995, the Postal Service informed the APWU that to be consistent with the trucking industry and its own contract drivers, USPS would voluntarily mirror DOT requirements covering physicals for Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) employees, including the issuance of a medical card and drug and alcohol testing. The federal government is exempt from Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, under 49 CFR 390.3(f)(2).
This means that every USPS employee operating a commercial motor vehicle is required to have a standard DOT CDL physical and participate in drug and alcohol testing procedures. Under normal procedures, the DOT-required physical is administered every two years. Under certain circumstances, such as for employees who may have high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, diabetes and other health conditions, the certifying physician may grant a medical card covering less than two years.
By letter dated April 9, 2014, the Postal Service advised the union that medical personnel and contractors are instructed to follow the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Comprehensive Health Services guidelines, recommendations and standards.
Since these procedures affect working conditions, the policy must meet the standards of being fair, reasonable, and equitable.
Reports from the field indicate the Postal Service has been unilaterally implementing changes to DOT CDL required physicals, including:
1. Requiring employees to sign release of medical information forms from their personal physicians to the contract doctor;
2. Having USPS doctors modify or revoke the two-year DOT physical cards from employees who successfully passed the DOT physical at the contract clinic;
3. USPS regional medical personnel unilaterally changing the CDL medical card requirement standards.
The APWU has initiated several Step 4 disputes on these changes. Additionally, the requirement to sign a medical release of all information maintained by the employees’ personal physician may violate the employees’ privacy and involve possible HIPPA violations.
As we continue our discussions with the Postal Service, it is essential APWU locals remain vigilant of any changes to the DOT CDL physicals and continue to file grievances challenging them. Q&A number 49 in the Joint Contract Interpretation Manual (JCIM) sets the foundation when challenging medical disputes:
49. What is the process for resolving Department ofTransportation medical disputes?
Response: An employee may appeal an adverse result of a certifying examination to the District Occupational Health Services office with a copy of the concern, without revealing the medical condition in question, to their immediate supervisor. If the physicalis performed by a community based contract physician, review of the examination results will be done by the Senior Area Medical Director. If the Medical Director review agrees with the current examination, the employee may ask for an independent medical assessment by a physician jointly chosen by the Postal Service and the employee. The results of the independent review will stand as the final decision. The independent review is paid for by the USPS.