The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s five-member Medical Review Board approved a proposal earlier this week to eliminate the current exemption process for commercial motor vehicle drivers with monocular vision.
The federal government has been granting waivers for drivers with vision in only one eye since 1998. It is estimated that the current over 2,500 interstate drivers hold FMCSA vision exemptions. This standard requires drivers to have:
- A distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or
visual acuity separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses.
- A distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both eyes with or without
- A field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal Meridian in each eye.
- The ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red,
green, and amber.
When finalized, the proposal would amend the FMCSA’s regulations to permit an individual who cannot meet either the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standard, or both, in one eye to be physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce under specified conditions.
An alternative vision standard would involve a two-step process for physical qualification.
- A prospective driver seeking physical qualification would obtain a vision evaluation from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. The findings would provide specific medical information and opinions on a proposed Vision Evaluation Report.
- A medical examiner would perform an examination and determine whether the individual meets the proposed vision standard along with FMCSA’s physical qualification standards. If the medical examiner determines that the individual meets the physical qualification standards, the medical examiner could issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate for a maximum of 12 months.
With some limited exceptions, individuals initially physically qualified under the alternative standard would be required to complete a road test by a prospective employer motor carrier before operating a CMV in interstate commerce. The proposal would grandfather provision for drivers operating under the current vision waiver study program.
The proposal shares some similarities with the 2019 requirement for insulin-dependent diabetic drivers; which the medical review board feels has been working well.