Canada, U.S. reach driver medical accord

OTTAWA (Jan. 4) — Canada and the United States have agreed to recognize one another’s rules regarding medical qualifications for truck drivers, ending nearly three years of negotiation.

The two countries completed an exchange of letters of agreement on Dec. 30, said Derek Sweet, director, road safety programs, with Transport Canada. The effective date of the agreement is March 31, or 90 days subsequent to the official exchange of letters.

The deal will eliminate the need for Canadian drivers to carry a U.S. medical fitness certificate while operating in the United States. In effect, a driver’s proof of medical fitness will be his provincial commercial operator’s licence. U.S. drivers will receive similar treatment from Canada.

Many doctors have refused to conduct DOT medical exams since late September, when the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which insures more than 65,000 physicians in Canada, said doing so would increase their risk of medical liability in the U.S.

The CMPA has indicated it would rescind its recommendation during the 90-day period following a reciprocal agreement, allowing doctors to resume performing medical exams immediately. Officials at CMPA headquarters in Ottawa could not be reached for comment.

The two federal governments reached agreement in principle on medical reciprocity during NAFTA discussions in 1995. However, negotiations over final details were not broached until this fall, when the CMPA issued its recommendation and the situation became urgent.

Currently, all Canadian truck drivers must receive a medical examination every two years and carry a certificate specified by the U.S. DOT as a precondition for entry into the U.S.

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