Home Medicine The Ignorance Is Strong Here

The Ignorance Is Strong Here


Sometimes, I have a hard time finding something to write about. Especially something about EMS. I’ve been in EMS a long time, a really long time. In fact, I was in EMS before it was even called EMS. My first ambulance call was in 1973, although I didn’t go to work in EMS as a career for five more years, it’s still a long time.

I mention that only to say that I’ve seen a lot, if not all, of the history of EMS. I’ve even participated in some of in terms of what was considered cutting edge skills and technology. As a result, there’s not a lot that is new to me in EMS. Which brings me back to it being hard sometimes to find something EMS related to blog about.

Then there are times when someone throws a snark worthy topic my way and provides me with most of what I need for a post.

I received an email from “thediabetescouncil.com” telling me that they were working on an article about “Can You Drive an Ambulance if You Have Diabetes?”. Apparently some states have special driver’s licenses to operate an ambulance. Mine is not one of them, so the concept is a bit foreign to me.

Here are couple of quotes from the article. Quotes which are probably partially accurate, but mostly not.

Recently, Recently Jared contacted us with a question – could he obtain a license to drive an ambulance in his home state of California while taking insulin? California is a bit tricky when it comes to who can obtain an Ambulance Driver’s License, as are many other states.

Most states follow the federal guidelines for interstate trucking, where drivers must obtain a medical waiver for diabetes from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), when getting an ambulance driver’s certificate. To get an ambulance drivers license with insulin-requiring diabetes, you must go through the process that exists in your home state.

I’m always leery when someone tells me “most states” do something. States still have wide latitude in most things, including EMS certifications. In my state at least, emergency vehicle operators are exempt from the provisions of Commercial Drivers License (CDL) requirements. Other states might require that, but I’m skeptical that “most” do.

The rules and regulations are quite complicated, and a person with diabetes has a long process to go through when trying to get started in an ambulance driver career. With perseverance, even a person with diabetes requiring insulin can get certified. They must assure their employers that they can drive an emergency vehicle without incident.

Apparently, the fine folks at “thediabetescouncil.com” think that the major function of EMS providers is to drive ambulances. After all, how dangerous could it be to a patient if the Guy in Back (GIB) with the patient becomes unconscious during the transport of a critically ill or injured patient? Of course, we just sit back there and hold the patient’s hand, right? It’s not like we do any patient care or anything.

The WHAT?!

NRAD new certification regulations for ambulance drivers

As of January 1, 2015, EMT and paramedics are no longer allowed to drive an ambulance unless they have obtained an Ambulance Driver’s Certificate. This change by the NRAD (National Registry of Ambulance Drivers) came about through Congress following years of vehicular accidents in the emergency field. There was a national call for additional driver training for EMT’s. While firemen get this additional training, in the past, EMTs did not get driver training. With not as many accidents occurring, insurance costs for ambulance companies would go down. The trend is to hire a specially trained person that could drive the ambulance. In this way, they could also be paid less. The Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) would then be freed up to perform EMT duties, and not have to worry about driving. 1

Through the years, many cases of discrimination have been brought before the courts. These cases have set precedent for law going forward in some cases. Some cases have been tried in civil courts, which do not set precedent for law. In these states where civil cases have not been able to set precedent for the law, people with diabetes have had to go through the courts in order to get an Ambulance Driver’s Certificate.

Now, I’m beginning to think that I’ve been trolled, although it’s a pretty elaborate website for a troll. The National Registry of Ambulance Drivers was a wholly made up organization from the now apparently defunct “Call The Cops” parody website. There is no such thing, there is no such thing as a “Ambulance Driver’s Certificate”. At least outside of California, which unlike the hype from the 1970s TV series “Emergency” is not close to cutting edge in EMS. In fact, it’s trailing edge, if anything.

I know that some states do have a non EMT level of provider that mostly operates the ambulances. They still need some level of training in medical care. It’s not that these states consider this optimal, but in some rural areas it’s difficult to staff ambulances, so this has been adopted as a compromise measure.

These are supposedly the requirements in North Carolina,

To investigate more, the head of the local emergency services was interviewed. He was able to add that it depends on the size of the ambulance as to whether or not you will be required to get an Ambulance Driver’s Certificate. He stated that his drivers just have to keep their diabetes in control as evidenced by a yearly physical. Driving a fire truck for the emergency services department is a different story. Since it is so big and cumbersome to navigate a large fire truck, a Commercial Driver’s License or CDL is required. He stated that if he had bigger units out on the road that his crew would have to get the Ambulance Driver’s Certificate. He stated this is one reason why his ambulance units are smaller.

I have no idea if any of this is correct, except I’m pretty sure that the part about a CDL to operate fire apparatus is incorrect. Again, that can vary from state to state and I’ll do some follow up with some of the firefighters I know well.

This article might be a case of someone getting over their head on a topic about which they know nothing. I hope so, because if it’s typical of the information put forth on this website, that says nothing good about the people who run it.

I encourage my readers to visit the website and let them know what you think about their “Ambulance Driver” information.


Previous article The Fire Service Was Supposed To Take Over EMS
Next article How To End Your EMS Career
After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.


  1. Please, please, PLEASE, tell me that you sent them a comment!!! I’m so incensed right now that I can’t think coherently enough to do it.

    • I didn’t but someone I know did and they promised to edit their article. We’ll see.

  2. I’m old, but in the 70’s in Florida you had to have a chauffeur’s license to drive either a fire truck or an ambulance. Testing was done by the State.

    • You’re not THAT old. 🙂 Some states do indeed have specific requirements to operate emergency vehicles. I think New York is one of them. Still, the information at the website is wildly inaccurate.

Comments are closed.