New process for drivers with vision issues

By: Tom Bray

Publication: Transport Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 04/01/2022

On January 21, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a rule change making it easier for drivers that do not meet the vision standards to drive a commercial vehicle.

Current standards

During the medical examination, the driver must have:

  • 20/40 vision in both eyes (corrected or uncorrected),
  • Distant binocular vision of 20/40 (corrected or uncorrected),
  • A field of view of 70 percent, and
  • The ability to recognize traffic colors (red, yellow, and green).

In the past, if a driver could not meet the vision standards, the process involved:

  • Taking the medical exam and being found otherwise qualified,
  • Completing an exemption application,
  • Getting paperwork from an ophthalmologist,
  • Sending the paperwork to the FMCSA headquarters in Washington, D.C., and
  • Waiting for the FMCSA to approve the exemption.
FMCSA Compliance Manual
FMCSA Compliance Manual

An authoritative safety compliance manual to help companies operating commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) comply with FMCSA regulations.

New process

If a driver has one eye that would normally disqualify the driver, the driver can now follow the process detailed in §391.44. This process involves:

  • The driver bringing a completed copy of the Vision Evaluation Report, Form MCSA-5871, signed and dated by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, to the medical exam;
  • The medical examiner reviewing the Form 5871 and completing a medical exam of the driver, including reviewing;
  • The medical examiner certifying the driver for one year, provided the driver passed the exam and the examiner is satisfied with the driver’s Form 5871; and
  • The driver’s employer doing a road test to verify the lack of adequate vision in one eye does not affect the driver’s ability to operate safely.

The employer can forego the road test if:

  • The driver operated a CMV and was driving with the vision deficiency for the previous three years, or
  • The driver held a federal vision exemption or waiver on March 22, 2022.

Key to remember: Many drivers with vision problems in one eye are either operating under an exemption or waiver, or in intrastate-only operations. This change will make it easier for such drivers to operate in interstate commerce.

About the author
Tom Bray - Transportation Editor

Tom has been with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. since 2005. He brought with him an extensive background that includes years of experience in DOT compliance, policy development, driver human resources, driver training, training program development, CDL testing, claims management, and accident and injury prevention.

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