FMCSA’s New Rules on Truck Drivers with Partial Vision Loss

FMCSA’s New Rules on Truck Drivers with Partial Vision LossThe first priority for every truck driver is that they can see well enough to handle any emergencies that may occur. Drivers who apply for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) need to pass the sight standards established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). If you were injured by a trucker with vision loss, you have options. Call Silverman, McDonald & Friedman in in Wilmington, Newark, and Seaford to discuss any tuck accident claim.

Freight Waves announced in August 2021 that the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board had suggested changes, in early 2021, to vision standards for drivers who have vision loss in one eye. The suggested changes were open to comments by the public. Based on those comments the Medical Review Board, which consists of five physicians, recommended new field of vision requirements for truck drivers who lost vision in one eye.

The recommended changes (with are still open for additional comments) recommend that the driver show he/she has a field-of-vision of 120 degrees. The original recommendation was for just 70 degrees. The new FMCSA standard means that drivers with vision loss in just one who satisfy the 120-degree field of vision test will be eligible to driver a commercial motor vehicle. The truck driver will not have to ask the FMCSA for permission to drive based on an approved exemption.

The FMCSA changes also require that:

  • The truck driver has 20/40 vision or better in the eye that does work.
  • The driver is able to recognize standard traffic signal colors – red, amber, and green
  • The vision deficiency should be stable. The driver’s vision should not be getting worse.

The stricter FMCSA standards were adopted after one healthcare company, Concentra, stated the FMCSA needs to review the field of vision requirement. Concentra stated that while the 70-degree test “in the horizontal meridian in each eye” is sufficient, that would mean the total field of vision for both eyes should be 140 degrees. Concentra recommended to the FMCSA that a truck driver who cannot see well out of one eye should have a field of 120 degrees which is comparable to the 140-degree measurement and much stronger than the initial 70-degree measurement proposal.

The Medical Review Board recommended to the FMCSA that the agency adopt Concentra’s standard.  While the recommendation is subject to further comments and review, truck drivers, as of August 2021, will not be eligible to drive in interstate commerce if they cannot meet the 120-degree field of vision test and the other standards – unless they can qualify through an exemption. An FCMSA exemption may be available to drivers who lose their vision if they have three or more years’ driving experience, and who do not driver across state lines.

In addition to needing to pass the 120 degree field-of-vision test and the other vision requirements, drivers who have vision loss in one eye must be able to pass a road test before they can drive across state lines. If a truck driver has three or more years’ experience driving within a state or “expected interstate CMV [commercial vehicle] driving experience with the vision deficiency,” the driver may not need to take the road test – if they have a valid federal vision exemption or a medical certification. Basically, if you have vision loss in one year, you’ll most likely need to take the road test.

What medical tests must truck drivers pass to get a commercial driver’s license?

According to CDL, a medical exam is compulsory in order to obtain a CDC license. Each state has its own CDL medical exam requirements. A medical examiner approved by the state must conduct the medical examination. Common medical tests include checking that the truck driver:

  • Has 20/40 correctable vision in each eye
  • Can hear a “forced whisper from at least five feet way in at least one ear”
  • Has a stable blood pressure
  • Does not have a strong risk for diabetes, or a requirement that they have insulin injections*
  • Has a healthy heart
  • Does not have a respiratory illness, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, brain disorder, or any neurological disorders
  • Does not have symptoms of dizziness or fainting
  • Does not have digestive problems, kidney disease, epilepsy or seizure, psychiatric difficulties, or sleep apnea
  • Does not have chronic pain
  • Does not have any signs of alcohol or drug abuse

(*Exemptions may be possible for diabetes.)

When a truck driver passes the medical exam, he/she will be given a CDL medical card. The Delaware Department of Transportation will receive the information that the drivers passed the CDL test. Drivers should keep their CDL current. If a truck driver moves to another state, they need to transfer their CDL to that state. Medical cards are subject to periodic review. If the medical card is not renewed, the driver will receive notice that he/she cannot drive a commercial vehicle.

Delaware CDL applicants can learn more about the application process through the Delaware Motor Vehicle Department.

At Silverman, McDonald & Friedman, our Delaware truck accident lawyers have the experience and resources to hold negligent drivers, truck owners, and trucking companies liable for the deaths and injuries they cause. We demand full compensation for all your damages including pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, property damage, and wrongful death damages. To speak with a strong advocate, call us at 302.888.2900 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment in Wilmington, Newark, and Seaford.