FMCSA plan would make it easier for truckers with vision loss in one eye to operate

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is considering a proposal to change vision requirements for truck drivers to provide “enhance employment opportunities.”

In a Notice of Proposed Rule Making published January 12, the FMCSA floated a plan to create a new vision standard as part of the physical qualifications required to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicles interstate.

The agency’s plan would “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 CMV in interstate commerce under specified conditions.”

The proposal suggests eliminating the current requirement for a truck driver to complete 3 year of intrastate driving with the vision loss to qualify for an exemption. Instead, drivers with vision loss would complete a road test to be conducted by the motor carrier to demonstrate that they can operate a CMV safely.

Under the proposal, the road test would not be required for those who 3 years of intrastate or excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, hold a valid Federal vision exemption, or are medically certified, as the agency says that these individuals have already shown the ability to operate safety with vision loss.

“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. Therefore, if an individual meets the proposed vision standard, the Agency expects there will be no adverse impact on safety due to the individual’s vision. That is, once an individual’s vision is stable and the individual has adapted to and compensated for the change in vision, the loss in vision is not likely to play a significant role in whether the individual can drive a CMV safely,” the FMCSA stated.

The new vision standard outlined by the FMCSA would require that individuals have in the better eye distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) (with or without corrective lenses) and field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian; the ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber; stability of the vision deficiency; and sufficient time to adapt to and compensate for the change in vision. The agency believes that those who can meet these standards would not create an increased risk of injury to themselves or others due to their vision.

The FMCSA argues that the proposed rule would reduce barriers to entry for current and future CMV drivers and says that it would save $1.6 million per year by eliminating the federal vision exemption program.

You can click here to read the FMCSA’s full proposal.