U.S. looks to physically clear truck drivers with limited vision in one eye

Deborah Lockridge

The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is proposing to eliminate its federal vision exemption waiver program and instead let medical professionals and carriers determine whether drivers with limited vision in one eye may drive commercial motor vehicles.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking published Jan. 12, FMCSA said it’s considering whether to physically clear interstate truck drivers who can’t meet the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standard, or both, in one eye. The driver would need to meet the proposed alternative vision standard and FMCSA’s other physical qualification standards.

(Photo: istock)

With limited exceptions, those qualified under the alternative standard for the first time would need to complete a road test before operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. Motor carriers would administer the road tests.

The proposed alternative vision standard is based on recommendations from FMCSA’s Medical Review Board.

The federal government has been granting vision waivers since 1998.

The agency noted that the proposed process is similar to what it adopted in 2018 for drivers with insulin-dependent diabetes. As in that case, the alternative vision standard would involve a two-step process for physical qualification.

First, an individual seeking physical qualification would obtain a vision evaluation from an ophthalmologist or optometrist, who would record the findings and provide specific medical opinions on the proposed Vision Evaluation Report, which incorporates the recommendations of the Medical Review Board.

Next, an approved FMCSA driver medical examiner would perform an exam and determine whether the individual meets the proposed vision standard, as well as FMCSA’s other physical qualification standards. If the medical examiner determines that the individual meets the physical qualification standards, he or she could issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate for a maximum of 12 months.

“It is well recognized in the literature that individuals with vision loss in one eye can and do develop compensatory viewing behavior to mitigate the vision loss,” the proposal notes.

Instead of requiring three years of intrastate driving experience with the vision deficiency as in the current exemption program, drivers would have to complete a road test before operating in interstate commerce.

Drivers would be exempted from the road test requirement if they have three years of intrastate or excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, already hold a valid federal vision exemption, or are medically certified.

Comments on the proposal must be received on or before March 15.

  • A version of this article first appeared at truckinginfo.com and is reproduced under an editorial sharing agreement between Heavy Duty Trucking and Today’s Trucking magazines.
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge is editor in chief of Bobit Business Media’s Heavy Duty Trucking and Truckinginfo.com. She has covered trucking since 1990 and has been with HDT since 1998. The award-winning writer is known for her in-depth coverage and insightful commentary on topics ranging from driver fatigue to counterfeit parts to supply chain issues.

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