“Two Motor Carriers – Similar Ownership – Two Policies or One?”
“What is the retention period for physicals in a DQ file.”
The answer is 15 days.
My guess is that you’re surprised by that answer. The explanation is related to the fact that the physical is now tied to the CDL. Each time the driver’s physical is renewed a copy must be sent to the state so that they can update the driver’s MVR with the new physical expiration date. If this fails to happen, the CDL is downgraded to an operator’s license until the new physical is received.
The motor carrier must then obtain an MVR that shows the new expiration date and place that in the driver’s qualification file. The copy of the physical that the driver is given by the medical examiner is only valid for 15 days. During that time period if the driver is stopped at a roadside inspection he/she can show the inspector the paper copy of the physical. After that the physical is verified by the inspector looking at the MVR for the status of the driver’s physical.
In actual practice, motor carriers don’t dispose of the physical paperwork, they keep it in the DQ file, and most drivers choose to still carry a copy of the physical even though they are not required to do so after the 15 days. However, the MVR that was obtained to verify the physical expiration date must be retained for three years and then it can be removed. Finally, there’s your answer.
Also, keep in mind that motor carriers are required to verify that the medical examiner who performed the physical is listed on the National Registry. The motor carrier must place a note regarding this check in the driver’s DQ file.
More information on Driver Qualification files and retention periods can be found at: 391.51.
Now that we’ve gotten this far, the process is scheduled to change slightly in June, unless the government delays things which is always a possibility. Here’s how it should work:
- The driver gets a new physical
- The Medical Examiner uploads the physical at the end of the business day to FMCSA
- FMCSA pushes the data out to the states so that the driver’s MVR can be updated
- The state updates the driver’s MVR
- The Motor Carrier obtains an updated MVR to verify the new expiration date and files that document in the DQ file.
Under this scenario it is no longer the responsibility of the driver/motor carrier to send the new physical to the state. In fact, under this scenario the Medical Examiner doesn’t even have to provide a copy to the driver since technically it isn’t needed. My guess is that they’ll still hand them out. There’s no guarantee that this will happen as scheduled especially since the National Registry web site was hacked and is still experiencing problems.
Finally, a last thought about physicals. If during the physical examination the medical examiner discovers a medical issue that prevents them from issuing a new physical certification, the driver’s previous physical, even though not expired, is no longer valid and the driver cannot continue to drive until the medical problem is corrected.