FMCSA medical council wants stricter standards for drivers with vision loss

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A review panel that advises federal regulators on medical standards for truck drivers recommends stricter standards for drivers with vision loss than those initially proposed.

The Medical Review Board (MRB) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, a five-member medical group that provides expert advice to the agency, recommends that the current field of vision requirement for drivers with loss of vision in one eye is changed from 70 degrees to 120 degrees in a proposed alternative vision standard being considered by the FMCSA.

The alternative standard was part of a regulatory proposal open for public comment in January. It included provisions to allow people with vision loss in one eye who meet the new standard to be deemed qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (MCV) without having to apply for an exemption from the FMCSA.

In addition to the field of vision requirement, the alternative standard requires that drivers have at least 20/40 vision in their best eye, be able to recognize the colors of traffic lights and devices displaying the red standard. , green and amber, and have stable visual impairment.

The regulation generated 69 comments, including a recommendation from healthcare company Concentra that the original field of view requirement proposed by the FMCSA be strengthened.

“The field of view issue needs to be addressed,” the company said in comments filed in March.

“The FMCSA has long considered that 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian of each eye is sufficient. However, the normal field of vision is double. A driver with monocular vision and a horizontal field of vision that meets the minimum of 70 degrees has a markedly reduced field of vision. We would recommend that 120 degrees bilaterally be considered the minimum acceptable standard… and that drivers not meeting this standard be disqualified. “

The MRB supported Concentra’s recommendation and incorporated it into its review of the proposed rule that it submitted to the agency in July. The FMCSA opens a 30 day comment period from Tuesday for the public to respond to MRB’s recommendations.

Drivers who cannot meet the current standard for distant visual acuity or field of vision, or both, with one eye, are prohibited from driving commercial trucks in interstate commerce unless they obtain an exemption from the FMCSA. Under the current exemption program, drivers with visual impairments in one eye must have three years of visually impaired driving experience in a state.

However, those who qualify under the proposed alternative vision standard would pass a road test, conducted by the carrier, before operating in interstate commerce. Drivers would be exempt from the road test requirement if they have three years of intra-state or interstate VMC driving experience with a visual impairment, hold a valid federal vision exemption, or are medically certified.

“The FMCSA believes that a test drive would be an appropriate indicator of an individual’s ability to safely operate a VMC with a visual impairment,” the agency said.

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