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FMCSA medical board wants tighter standards for drivers with vision loss

Panel adopts health care company’s recommendations on field-of-vision requirements

Review board advises tightening field-of-vision standards for drivers with vision loss. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A review board that advises federal regulators on medical standards for truck drivers recommends stricter standards for drivers with vision loss than originally proposed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board (MRB), a five-member panel of physicians that provides expert advice to the agency, recommends that the current field-of-vision requirement for drivers with vision loss in one eye be changed from 70 degrees to 120 degrees in a proposed alternative vision standard being considered by FMCSA.

The alternative standard was part of a rulemaking proposal that opened for public comment in January. It included provisions aimed at allowing those with vision loss in one eye who meet the new standard to be deemed qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) without having to apply to the FMCSA for an exemption.

In addition to the field-of-vision requirement, the alternative standard requires that drivers have at least 20/40 vision in their better eye, be able to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green and amber, and have a vision deficiency that is stable.

The rulemaking generated 69 comments, including a recommendation from the health care company Concentra that the original field-of-vision requirement proposed by FMCSA be tightened.

“The field of vision issue needs to be addressed,” the company stated in comments filed in March.

“FMCSA has long considered 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian in each eye to be sufficient. However, normal field of vision is twice that. A driver with monocular vision and a field of horizontal vision that meets the 70 degree minimum has a markedly decreased field of vision. We would recommend that 120 degrees bilaterally be considered the minimum acceptable standard … and drivers not meeting this standard be disqualified.”

The MRB supported Concentra’s recommendation and incorporated it in its review of the proposed rule which it submitted to the agency in July. The FMCSA is opening a 30-day comment period starting Tuesday for the public to respond to MRB’s recommendations.

Drivers who cannot meet either the current distant-visual-acuity or field-of-vision standard, or both, in one eye are prohibited from driving commercial trucks in interstate commerce unless they obtain an exemption from FMCSA. Under the current exemption program, drivers with a vision deficiency in one eye are required to have three years of driving experience with the vision deficiency within a state.

However, those who qualify under the proposed alternate vision standard would complete a road test, conducted by the carrier, before operating in interstate commerce. Drivers would be waived from the road test requirement if they have three years of intrastate or excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, hold a valid federal vision exemption, or are medically certified.

“FMCSA finds that a road test would be an appropriate indicator of an individual’s ability to operate a CMV safely with the vision deficiency,” the agency stated.

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  1. Sandra Jeanne Irwin

    The current vision waiver program has been ok for 47 years that I have driven truck under it. I was in the original 3 year test program back in the 90s – most drivers who were are either dead or retired. It was fine and still is the way its written. If it ain’t broke don’t try and fix it. Still truckn part time.

  2. Dwight Young

    That’s just what this already short handed industry needs, more regulations and tighter restrictions. You already took a perfectly working system and screwed it up with implementing the CDL program citing safety issues. Guess what? No change in accidents, just more control, and constricted. Just shows how govt ran systems with members who’ve never sat behind the wheel actually working making policy causing shortages and have the gall to ask why this is happening? You never ask the ones that matter.

  3. Sandra Jeanne Irwin

    I have been driving big trucks for 47 years under a federal vision waiver. I was part of the original vision waiver 3 year program back in the 90s and was grand fathered in when it became a reality for drivers in general with vision loss in one eye. I find now that the state I live in has no clue what a vision waiver is and the FMCSA had to get on them when I renewed my CDL the last time and required the employees take a guidance program to learn about it.

    I don’t understand why the FMCSA would even consider changing the requirements. If it ain’t broke then don’t mess with it.

  4. D. Sheets

    There several drivers and people in general public that have this problem with a good safety record, there are more rules than needed as it is. There’s a shortage of drivers and some that are sent out shouldn’t be in a truck to begin with even with the excessive rules we have at this time. This industry and several others are excessively government over regulated, Leave The Rules Alone. It’s hard enough finding a good driver that’s willing to leave their family for weeks at a time. Remember if it wasn’t for trucks and truck drivers we wouldn’t eat, have fuel, medical supplies or anything else that a truck carries and delivers.

  5. Floyd Haynes

    I agree that there should be exception for drivers with vision loss in one eye. Test should be given by the FMCA and once passed, the driver should be given a waiver.

  6. David

    And they wonder why they can’t get truck drivers. Everytime you turn around they change the rules and put more out of a job. Leave the rules alone you jackasses.

Comments are closed.

John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.