FMCSA Sets New Standards for Truck Drivers with Vision Loss

FMCSA Sets New Standards for Truck Drivers with Vision Loss The Medical Review Board of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently recommended that truck drivers be subject to stricter standards for vision loss than currently proposed. The Medical Review Board consists of five doctors that provide medical advice to the FMCSA.

Freight Waves reported in August 2021 that the current field-of-vision requirement for truck drivers who lost vision in one eye be expanded from 70 degrees to 120 degrees. The new alternative standard was recommended in response to public comments. The standard would allow truck drivers who have vision loss in one eye and who meet the 120 degree field of vision test to be eligible to drive a commercial motor vehicle without the need to request that the FMCSA approve an exemption.

The recommendation also requires that truck drivers have 20/40 vision or better in their stronger eye. Drivers should also be able to recognize standard green, amber, and red colors in traffic signals and devices. Their vision deficiency should be stable and not be getting worse.

These standards are in response to requests for comments that the FMCSA made early in 2021. One comment that the FMCSA found persuasive was submitted by Concentra, a healthcare company. Concentra said that “the field of vision issue needs to be addressed,” adding that while the FMCSA has long considered “70 degrees in the horizontal meridian in each eye to be sufficient,” the normal field of vision is 140 degrees.

A driver who can only use one eye and has a field of vision of just 70 degrees falls far short of the field of vision necessary for quality vision. Concentra then recommended the 120 degree requirement.

The Medical Review Board was persuaded by Concentra’s argument. According to FMCSA procedures, the FMCSA is now waiting for new comments to its new standards. For now, drivers who can’t meet the eye standards set by the FMCSA are not eligible to drive commercial trucks in interstate commerce. An exemption may be granted if the driver who has vision loss in one eye has three or more years’ experience driving with the vision loss within a state.

Drivers who meet the 120 degree field-of-vision test still need to pass a road test conducted by the truck carrier before they can drive in interstate commerce. Drivers with three or more years of intrastate or “expected interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency” and who have a valid federal vision exemption or a medical certification may not have to take the road test. In short, the FMCSA wants to ensure truck driver safety by requiring a road test, unless special conditions apply.

Other health tests for truckers who wish to obtain a commercial driver’s license

According to CDL, the health test requirements for truck drivers who wish to obtain a commercial driver’s license include the need to pass a commercial driver’s license (CDL) medical exam. An approved medical examiner must conduct the test. Each state can test for different conditions, but most states want to see if the applicant:

  • Has 20/40 correctable vision in each eye
  • Does not have a current diabetic condition or a history of diabetes that requires insulin injections
  • Has the ability to hear a “forced whisper from at least five feet way in at least one ear”
  • Has normal blood pressure
  • Has a blood sugar level below 200

The medical examiner, normally a physician, will also check if the applicant has any history of:

  • Cardiac disease or respiratory illness
  • Hearing loss
  • Stroke
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Neurological disorders
  • Brain disorders
  • Digestive difficulties
  • Epilepsy or seizure
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Kidney disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep apnea
  • Paralysis

The CDL medical exam will also review if the applicant has any indicators for alcohol or drug abuse. Truck drivers must pass a drug test to qualify for a CDL medical card.

Drivers need to keep their CDL current to drive a commercial vehicle. Drivers should keep their medical card in their vehicle. The medical card must be renewed periodically. If a driver does not renew their card, they will not be eligible to drive a commercial vehicle.

What exemptions are available for CDL applicants?

CDL applicants may be eligible for exemptions such as the vision loss exemption based on truck driving experience discussed above. There are other exemptions if a driver has an amputation, are diabetic, or have other physical impairments.

Where can truck drivers learn more about obtaining a CDL in Vancouver or Battle Ground?

Information about CDL requirements can be viewed on the Washington State Department of Licensing website.  The website provides information about the following:

  • If you need a CDL to drive your commercial vehicle
  • The different classes of CDLs, whether there are any restrictions, and if you need to have an endorsement on your CDL
  • The knowledge and skills tests, including the ability to take a practice knowledge test
  • How to renew or update your CDL
  • How to transfer your CDL to another state or from another state
  • What to do if you are disqualified from obtaining a CDL or if your CDL is revoked

At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground truck accident lawyers understand the unique challenges of driving commercial truck. That is why we fight to hold truck drivers, truck owners, shipping companies, brokers, and others liable when their negligence causes personal injury or the death of a loved one. All truck drivers need to be qualified and trained before they should drive any truck.

To discuss your rights if a Washington state truck accident caused you any physical harm, call our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. Please call us at 360-695-3309 or complete our contact form to make an appointment. We represent truck accident victims and families on a contingency fee basis.