Canadian Truck Drivers Don’t Need To Carry Medical Docs

By: Heather Ness 

NEENAH, WI — This just in: there’s a rule Canadian truck drivers can ignore!

When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) announced earlier this year that commercial drivers are required to possess medical certificates for another year, they weren’t talking about Canadian truck drivers. The FMCSA rule does not apply to commercial drivers’ licences issued by Canadian provinces.

The FMCSA adopted a rule back in 2008 that makes three basic changes to the medical card and commercial driver’s license (CDL) requirement:

• An interstate commercial motor vehicle driver who is required to hold a CDL will have to provide his or her current medical certificate and any applicable variances or exemptions to the state that issued the CDL.

• The state will update the CDL database with the medical certification.

• As of January 30, 2014, employers were required to obtain each applicant’s driving record to verify that he/she is medically qualified.

“Essentially, the U.S. process will be very similar to the process currently occurring in Canada,” Heather Ness, editor for Transport Operations at J.J. Keller & Associates explains.

But Canadian drivers don’t have to do anything about this rule, she says.

That’s because Canadian jurisdictions don’t issue commercial licences until drivers’ medical information has been submitted and verified. What’s more, in 1999, the U.S. and Canada entered into a reciprocal agreement to accept each other’s commercial driver’s licenses. Because of this agreement, CDLs issued by Canadian jurisdiction are already proof of medical fitness and the U.S. considers them legitimate without the need to carry additional medical certificates.

The following excerpt from Title 49, Code of Federal Regulations Section 391.41, paragraph (a)(1)(i) states as follows: 

“(a)(1)(i) A person subject to this part must not operate a commercial motor vehicle unless he or she is medically certified as physically qualified to do so, and … when on-duty has on his or her person the original, or a copy, of a current medical examiner’s certificate that he or she is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. NOTE: … The United States and Canada entered into a Reciprocity Agreement, effective March 30, 1999, recognizing that a Canadian commercial driver’s license is proof of medical fitness to drive a CMV.”

Therefore, Canadian CMV drivers don’t have to have a medical examiner’s certificate on their person if they have a valid CDL issued by a Canadian Province or Territory, and whose license and medical status, including any waiver or exemption, can be electronically verified. Drivers who have received a medical authorization that differs from the mutually accepted compatible medical standards of the resident country are not qualified to drive a CMV in the other countries.

The Code continues: “For example, Canadian drivers who do not meet the medical fitness provisions of the Canadian National Safety Code for Motor Carriers, but are issued a waiver by one of the Canadian Provinces or Territories, are not qualified to drive a CMV in the United States. In addition, U.S. drivers who received a medical variance from FMCSA are not qualified to drive a CMV in Canada.”

You can see that both the United States and Canada have reciprocity when it comes to commercial driver’s licenses, except if the driver has a medical condition that would disqualify him/her from operating in the United States. Since that’s the case, and in Canada the driver’s medical status is already tied to the driver’s license, there’s really nothing you need to do to meet the U.S. CDL/medical card merger rule.

Having said that, Canadian truck drivers may need to address one little thing related to driver licenses and driver medical status.

“You might have heard about a relatively new restriction code, Code W, which some jurisdictions are placing on driver’s licenses and driver abstracts,” Ness says. 

Code W indicates the driver is not medically qualified to operate into the United States; specifically, Code W means “restricted commercial class – Canada only.” It most recently made the news in Ontario almost a year ago when more than 45,000 drivers that operate into the United States were notified that they were no longer medically qualified for operation into the United States.

Their licenses were going to be marked with Code W, the driver’s record would also be marked with Code W, and the driver would no longer be able to drive in the United States as a result. In the majority of cases, it turned out that the drivers were simply late in submitting their medical information to Ontario.

Nevertheless, it’s something drivers should be aware of as several other jurisdictions have already started placing Code W on the driver’s license and the driver’s abstracts.

“When you obtain your driver’s abstracts for driver qualification purposes, you’ll need to look for Code W and ensure that, if you intend for your drivers to operate into the United States, they have not been issued the Code W designation. Contact your jurisdiction’s driver’s licensing office for more details,” Ness says.

Heather Ness is the editor of Transport Operations, at J.J.Keller & Associates. Contact her at

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