Truck drivers may be able to obtain an exemption for a “vision deficiency” much quicker if the federal government gets its way. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed to shorten the amount of driving experience that truck drivers need in order to obtain an exemption to operate a commercial motor vehicle with a “vision deficiency,” the agency announced in a Federal Register notice published on December 18.
The FMCSA proposed two options to supplant the existing three years of driving experience requirement: 1. Driving with a stable vision condition for at least one year while operating a commercial motor vehicle in intrastate commerce 2. Removing the driving experience criteria all together In 2006, the FMCSA was presented a study of the medical exemption program that suggested the existing prerequisite for three years of intrastate driving experience with a visual deficiency wasn’t needed to uphold safety. The there-year study determined collision rates of truck drivers with visual impairment were not any higher than drivers without impairment, drivers’ vision compensates “to mitigate visual loss” and commercial drivers with monocular vision didn’t have “significant differences” in “tasks involving safe driving.”
If either of the proposed changes were to occur, shortening to one year or removing the restrictions all together, the FMCSA would “continue evaluating the commercial motor vehicle driver’s safety record against his or her intrastate driving experience,” the Federal Register noted.
As it stands now, truck drivers are considered qualified to drive if they have distant visual perception and distant binocular acuity to 20/40 in each eye without corrective lenses or vision corrected to 20/40 with lenses, field of vision at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian in each eye, along with the ability to recognize the standard colors present in traffic signals. And existing FMCSA rules allow a driver to be exempt from these qualifications after three years if the agency finds “such exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such exemption.”
The agency considers exemptions on a case-by-case basis and may be granted to drivers who, in addition to the three years of driving experience, are at least 21 years old, have not their license suspended or revoked for any motor vehicle, not been at fault in an accident, not been convicted of serious traffic violations as defined in part 383.51 (b) of the federal regulations, which includes being under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, operating under a suspended license or using a commercial motor vehicle in committing a felony, and “serious traffic violations” under the current exemption criteria.
The agency is accepting public comment on the proposals until Jan. 17.