How to Become an NEMT Driver

NEMT drivers are a core component of the NEMT network. 

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How to Become an NEMT Driver

Non-emergency medical transportation is an in-demand industry that is expected to grow by 80% over the next several years. It is a service industry that is responsible for transporting patients for non-emergency medical services, such as doctor appointments, rehabilitation services, and medical exams. NEMT drivers are a core component of the NEMT network. 

What Is a Non-Emergency Medical Driver? 

NEMT drivers are tasked with picking patients up at their homes or other locations, safely transporting them to their appointments, and then taking them back home. NEMT drivers transport patients in many vehicles, including vans, wheelchair-equipped vans, ambulatory vehicles, and buses.

Many patients using NEMT services are elderly or might have physical disabilities that require extra support getting into and out of the vehicle. NEMT drivers must also follow a strict schedule to ensure patients reach their appointments on time and in the most efficient manner possible.

NEMT Driver Duties and Responsibilities

NEMT drivers handle a variety of duties and responsibilities that must:

  • Safely transport patients to and from their destination
  • Ensure the safety of all patients
  • Conduct frequent vehicle inspections
  • Provide mobility support to patients when necessary
  • Operate wheelchair lifts
  • Maintain driving logs
  • Utilize GPS for directions
  • Keep vehicles clean and well maintained
  • Prepare required reports

NEMT Driver Requirements

Transporting patients safely and efficiently is an important task, so it should come as no surprise that NEMT providers are selective when choosing drivers. States, on the other hand, often have very few requirements when it comes to NEMT drivers. Specific NEMT driver requirements vary from state to state. At the bare minimum, NEMT drivers should:

  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Maintain a clean driving history
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Pass drug testing
  • Have a chauffeur license (required in some states)
  • Have a CDL license (depending on state and vehicle)

Since NEMT drivers are not handling emergency services, regulations are not as strict as they are for medical transport drivers. In fact, some states have no medical certification requirements for NEMT drivers. However, many NEMT providers do. In fact, most NEMT providers prefer their drivers to have some type of non-emergency medical transportation driver training and certification, or at least the willingness to obtain certain certifications after hiring. For example:

  • CPR certification
  • First aid certification
  • Transportation safety training
  • Patient transit safety training

Some companies also add other non-emergency medical transportation driver requirements to their list, including:

  • Previous driving experience
  • Customer service skills
  • Strong ethics and personal responsibility 

NEMT VehicleRequirements

The types of NEMT vehicles you use depend on the type of non-emergency medical driver service you provide. For example, if you only provide basic services, you may be able to use a minivan or even a passenger car. However, in most cases, you will want to use handicap and wheelchair-accessible vehicles, such as a full-size van or bus. Offering these services allows your company to charge higher non-emergency medical transportation rates.

To transport patients with disabilities and handicaps, your non-medical transportation vehicles must meet all Americans with DisabilitiesAct (ADA) requirements, including:

  • Handicap Lift: The platform of the vehicle’s handicap lift must be at least 30” x 40”
  • Lift Door Height: The lift door of the vehicle must open to at least 56”
  • Wheelchair Attachment: The vehicle must be equipped with a four-point tie-down system to keep the wheelchair in place during transport
  • Gearshift Interlock: The van or bus must have a gearshift interlock that secures the vehicle in place while riders are boarding
  • Seat Belts: The vehicle must be equipped with lap and shoulder seat belt units
  • Heating and Air Conditioning: All NEMT vans should have working heating and air conditioning
  • Interior/Exterior Lighting: NEMT vehicles should have both interior and exterior lights near all exits
  • First Aid Kit: NEMT vehicles should be equipped with a fully stocked first aid kit
  • Fire Extinguisher: A fire extinguisher should be secured in the vehicle and within easy reach of the driver
  • Insurance: All NEMT vehicles must be fully insured in accordance with state and federal regulations

In addition to these NEMT vehicle requirements, it is crucial that these vehicles are well maintained. This step can help to avoid costly delays and ensure patients arrive at their appointments on time. NEMT drivers should conduct daily inspections of the vehicle to review everything, including lights and turn signals are in good working condition. Drivers should also check all fluids, such as oil and coolant, regularly.

How to Start an NEMTBusiness

Starting a non-emergency medical transportation business isa major step with great potential for success. Before you start booking NEMT rides, there are a few things you need to do to fully set up your business. The following steps will help you learn how to start a non-emergency medical transportation business.

1. Set Up Your Business Structure

The first step to starting a NEMT business is determining what business structure you want to have, such as a partnership, proprietorship, or LLC (Limited Liability Company). Be sure to research the advantages and disadvantages of each option before making your final decision.You also need a business license. All states require businesses providing services like NEMT transportation to have a license with the state.

2. Purchase Business Insurance

Next, it is crucial to purchase business insurance. To protect yourself and the company, you should obtain several types of business insurance policies, including general liability, commercial auto, professional liability, and worker’s compensation insurance. Make sure to do your due diligence to research which policy you choose as this can be one of the more costly components.

3. Purchase the Necessary Supplies and Equipment

You must also have the right supplies and equipment in place before starting your business. Start by renting a dispatch office to operate your business out of. Then, you can purchase or lease NEMT vehicles. Make sure these vehicles adhere to all state and ADA regulations. You also want to invest in NEMT software to streamline business management and optimize the company's scheduling process.

4. Hire Your Team

With everything in place, you can start to hire your staff members. This step includes hiring a general manager, office staff, dispatchers, and drivers. Keep in mind that your drivers are the ones who have first-hand contact with your customers. They also are responsible for making sure patients get to their appointments on time. These factors make it crucial that you take your time to find qualified NEMT drivers.

NEMT Application

To become an NEMT driver, you will likely need to complete a NEMT application. You will need to provide personal information, such as your name, date of birth, Social Security number, and driver’s license number. Most NEMT providers will require a copy of your driver’s license so they can check your driving history. Having multiple driving violations on your driving record may prevent you from becoming a NEMT driver.

NEMT drivers also must submit to a background check and drug testing. This step is done to ensure the safety of the riders. If you fail a drug test or have a criminal record, it could prevent you from getting a job as a NEMT driver.

Some states require NEMT drivers to pass a test or complete a training course to become a driver. For example, the non-emergency medical transportation AHCCCS program in Arizona requires all NEMT drivers to complete a certification or recertification training course. This course ensures that NEMT drivers understand all regulations in the state’s non-emergency medical transportation policies and procedures manual.

NEMT companies may also be required to complete anon-emergency medical transportation provider application and provide the necessary documentation, such as proof of insurance. The application will request information about the NEMT business and its services, such as what types of vehicles it uses, the types of services provided, and service hours.Once the application is approved, the NEMT company can provide services and bill for these services. It is important to update this information with the appropriate state agencies as needed.

NEMT Certification

NEMT certification requirements vary from state to state.For example, to obtain a non-emergency medical transportation license in Texas, you need both a business license and a seller’s license. To start anon-emergency medical transportation company in California, you need to complete the entire Medi-Cal Transportation Provider Application packet. 

Since NEMT drivers are not providing hands-on medical services, many states do not have NEMT certification requirements. However, the minimum requirement of CPR and first aid certification is becoming standard among NEMT providers across the country. There are also several certification and training programs for NEMT drivers becoming available, such as a certification in passenger assistance safety.

Whether you are seeking an Arizona non-emergency medical transportation license or a non-emergency medical transportation license inFlorida or any other state, it is crucial that you understand all state rules and regulations. In some states, you may need to obtain a specialized license, especially if you plan to drive buses that transport more than 15 people.

At a minimum, many states and nearly all NEMT providers expect drivers to have a current driver’s license and a clean driving record. One or two small infractions on your driving record maybe okay, but any more than that could make it difficult to find a job as a NEMT driver. Some companies also require drivers to pass a background check and drug test.

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