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Physical Qualification of Drivers; Standards; Changes to Vision Exemption Program Criteria

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Physical Qualification of Drivers; Standards; Changes to Vision Exemption Program Criteria

Anne S. Ferro
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
December 18, 2013

[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 243 (Wednesday, December 18, 2013)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 76590-76592]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29651]



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 381

[Docket No. FMCSA-2013-0097]

Physical Qualification of Drivers; Standards; Changes to Vision 
Exemption Program Criteria

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Proposed change to criteria; request for comments.


SUMMARY: FMCSA proposes changes to the eligibility requirements for the 
Agency's Vision Exemption Program. Obtaining an exemption enables an 
individual to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate 
commerce without satisfying all of the prescribed vision standards. The 
Agency has determined that these proposed changes in the eligibility 
criteria and conditions for the Vision Exemption Program will continue 
to ensure a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the 
level of safety maintained under the existing criteria.

DATES: Send your comments on or before January 17, 2014.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA-
2013-0097 by any of the following methods:
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
     Mail: Docket Management Facility: U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., West Building, Ground 
Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, 
Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 
E.T., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: 202-493-2251.
    To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods.
    Instructions: All submissions must include the Agency name and 
docket number. For detailed instructions on submitting comments and 
additional information, see the Public Participation heading below, as 
well as the Request for Information and Comments heading of the 
SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. Note that all 
comments received will be posted without change to http://www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided. 
Please see the Privacy Act heading below.
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments received, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online 
instructions for accessing the dockets, or go to the street address 
listed above.
    Privacy Act: Anyone may search the electronic form of all comments 
received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual 
submitting the comment (or of the person signing the comment, if 
submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). 
You may review the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Privacy 
Act Statement for the Federal Docket Management System published in the 
Federal Register on January17, 2008 (73 FR 3316), or you may visit 
    Public participation: The Federal eRulemaking Portal is generally 
available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. You can obtain 
electronic submission and retrieval help and guidelines under the 
``help'' section of the Federal eRulemaking Portal Web site. If you 
would like us to notify you that we received your comments, please 
include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or postcard, or print the 
acknowledgement page that appears after submitting comments on-line.
    Comments received after the comment closing date will be included 
in the docket and we will consider late comments to the extent 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Elaine Papp, (202) 366-4001, 
fmcsamedical@dot.gov, U.S. Department of Transportation, FMCSA, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Room W64-224, Washington, DC 20590-0001. 
Business hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., E.T., Monday through 
Friday, except Federal holidays.



A. FMCSA's Vision Standard

    FMCSA's primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and 
fatalities involving large trucks and buses. Under the provisions of 49 
U.S.C. 31136(a) and 31502(b), FMCSA is authorized to establish minimum 
qualification standards for drivers of CMVs operating in interstate 
commerce. To ensure the medical fitness of CMV drivers for duty, the 
Agency established a number of physical qualifications for drivers 
under 49 CFR 391.41(b). Adequate visual function is necessary for safe 
driving. The current vision standard pertains to acuity (the ability to 
see at a distance), field of vision (the ability to see peripherally), 
and the ability to detect and distinguish colors. Specifically, 49 CFR 
391.41(b)(10) states that a person is physically qualified to drive a 
CMV in interstate commerce if that person has:

    (1) distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in each 
eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity separately corrected 
to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective lenses;
    (2) distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both 
eyes with or without corrective lenses;
    (3) field of vision of at least 70[deg] in the horizontal 
meridian in each eye; and
    (4) the ability to recognize the colors of traffic signals and 
devices showing standard red, green, and amber.

B. FMCSA's Vision Exemption Program and Criteria

    Under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315(b), FMCSA may exempt a CMV 
driver from application of the vision standards if it finds ``such 
exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, 
or greater than, the level that would be achieved absent such 
exemption.'' The current Vision Exemption Program was established in 
1998, following the enactment of amendments to the statutes governing 
exemptions made by Sec.  4007 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 
21st Century (TEA-21), Public Law 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, 401 (June 9, 
1998). Applications are now handled in accordance with 49 CFR part 381 
subpart C. Qualifying individuals may apply for an exemption for up to 
two years from specified provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Regulations, including physical qualification standards specified under 
Sec.  391.41(b) (see 49 CFR 381.300(c)). Vision exemptions are 
considered under the procedures established in 49 CFR part 381 subpart 
C, on a case-by-case basis upon application by CMV drivers who do not 
meet the vision standards of 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10).

Current Criteria and Conditions

A. Current Criteria for Considering Exemptions From the Vision 

    The criteria currently considered when reviewing an application for 
an exemption have been in place since the program began in 1998. They 
are consistent with criteria used in the preceding Vision Waiver 
Program. In

[[Page 76591]]

July 1992, the Agency first published the criteria for the Vision 
Waiver Program, which listed the conditions and reporting standards 
that CMV drivers approved for participation would need to meet 
(``Qualification of Drivers; Vision Waivers,'' 57 FR 31458, July 16, 
1992). In 1998, FMCSA subsequently adopted those criteria and 
conditions, with revisions, for consideration in the current Vision 
Exemption Program.
    The Agency developed an example or template that drivers could use 
to apply for a vision exemption. The template outlines all information 
and documents the applicant should include to be considered for an 
exemption and the criteria for approval. FMCSA has docketed a copy of 
the template for reference, along with two additional instructional 
letters for applicants residing in Florida or Indiana.\1\ These current 
application materials are available on FMCSA's Web site at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/medical/exemptions.htm.

    \1\ Applicants from Florida and Indiana are required to submit a 
full driving record. This is because Florida and Indiana have 
different content in their motor vehicle reports. Florida does not 
include citations or accidents on motor vehicle reports that were 
withheld (adjudication withheld) because of attendance at court or 
traffic school. Therefore, the applicant must provide a current 
official copy of his/her complete driving record from the state of 
Florida, covering their entire record. Indiana does not include 
accidents on motor vehicle reports unless the driver did not have 
insurance at the time of the accident or the accident resulted in a 
suspension of driving privileges. Therefore, the applicant must 
request that a search be done to verify whether he or she has been 
involved in any accidents during the 3-year driving period from the 
Indiana State Police.

    Exemptions from the vision standards in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10) are 
considered only for those individuals with visual deficiencies who:
    (1) hold a valid license;
    (2) are at least 21 years old; and
    (3) have 3 years of intrastate CMV driving experience immediately 
preceding the date of the application, driving at least 10 hours per 
week in intrastate commerce with the visual deficiency;
    (4) have had a driving record for the same period listed above that 
contains the following:
    (a) no suspensions or revocations of a driver's license for the 
operation of any motor vehicle (including a personal vehicle);
    (b) no involvement in an accident where the driver's actions were a 
contributing factor or the driver received a citation for a moving 
traffic violation;
    (c) no convictions for a serious traffic violation, as defined in 
49 CFR 383.51(c);
    (d) no more than one serious traffic violation, as defined in 49 
CFR 383.51, driving a CMV during the 3-year period that disqualified or 
should have disqualified the driver in accordance with the driver 
disqualification provisions of 49 CFR 383.51; and
    (e) no more than two convictions for any other moving traffic 
violations in a CMV;
    (5) provide a signed statement that reads, ``I acknowledge that I 
must be otherwise qualified under 49 CFR 391.41(b)(1)-(13) or hold 
another valid medical exemption before I can legally operate a 
commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.'';
    (6) have visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen), corrected or 
uncorrected, in the better eye;
    (7) have field of vision in each eye, including central and 
peripheral fields, of at least 70[deg] utilizing a testing modality 
which tests to at least 120[deg] in the horizontal [Formal perimetry is 
required. The doctor must submit the formal perimetry for each eye and 
interpret the results in degrees of field of vision.];
    (8) have the ability to recognize the colors of traffic control 
signals and devices showing red, green, and amber; and
    (9) have been examined by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who 
signs a statement on letterhead in which the ophthalmologist or 
    (a) identifies the visual condition;
    (b) defines the nature of the vision deficiency, including how long 
the person has had the deficiency;
    (c) states the date of the examination;
    (d) certifies that the visual deficiency has been stable for the 3-
year period preceding the date of application; and
    (e) provides an opinion that the person can perform the driving 
tasks required to operate a CMV.

B. Current Conditions for Holding an Exemption to the Vision Standards

    FMCSA is aware that vision conditions can deteriorate over time and 
affect the driver's ability to operate a CMV safely. The following 
conditions for holding an exemption from the vision standards under 49 
CFR 391.41(b)(10) are imposed on exempted CMV drivers and include all 
of the following,
    (1) The exempted driver must be examined every year by
    (a) an ophthalmologist or optometrist who attests to the fact that 
the driver's vision continues to measure a visual acuity of at least 
20/40 (Snellen) and a field of vision in the horizontal meridian of at 
least 70[deg], both in the better eye; and
    (b) a medical examiner who attests to the fact that the driver is 
otherwise qualified under 49 CFR 391.41;
    (2) the driver must provide a copy of the ophthalmologist or 
optometrist report to his or her medical examiner at the time of the 
annual medical examination;
    (3) the driver must keep a copy of the annual medical certification 
in his or her qualification file as long as the driver is self-employed 
or provide a copy to the driver's employer for retention in the 
driver's qualification file and retain a copy of the exemption 
certificate on his or her person while driving for presentation to an 
authorized Federal, State, or local enforcement official; and
    (4) the driver must report any changes in personal information 
(i.e., address, telephone number, employment status) to FMCSA 
immediately, as well as changes in the type of vehicle driven. He or 
she may be required at any time during the authorized exemption period 
to provide information to the Agency regarding driving experience and 
performance as it relates to citations, accidents or crashes, 
suspensions or revocations, and medical status. Each driver will be 
subject to periodic monitoring by FMCSA of his or her driving 
performance while operating a CMV.

Proposed Criteria Changes

A. Criterion for Length of Driving Experience With a Stable Vision 

    FMCSA proposes to change the current 3-year driving experience 
criterion to one of two options discussed below. The Agency requests 
comments as to whether it should continue to require driving experience 
but decrease the period from 3 years to 1 year of operating with the 
vision deficiency, or eliminate the driving experience criterion. The 
basis for this change is derived from the Medical Exemption Program 
Study by Cambridge Systematics, Inc. (October 13, 2006), which found 
the following:
     The collision rates of visually impaired drivers in the 
Vision Program were not higher than non-impaired drivers in the control 
subset over the previous three years;
     Compensatory viewing behavior is developed in order to 
mitigate visual loss; and
     Monocular commercial drivers did not have significant 
differences in the performance of tasks involving safe

[[Page 76592]]

driving and the location of the monocular eye is not significant.
Option One: Driving With a Stable Vision Condition for at Least 1 Year 
While Operating a CMV in Intrastate Commerce
    This change would allow FMCSA to continue evaluating the CMV 
driver's safety record against his or her intrastate CMV driving 
experience and is consistent with the Agency's rationale for 
implementing the experience criterion. Though this option would reduce 
the length of driving experience with vision deficiency by two years, 
it would provide a timeframe that facilitates the verification of 
accurate and safe driving and medical records.
    However, not all CMV drivers are operating in States that allow 
intrastate driving with a visual deficiency. Thus, unless the driver 
experience criterion were removed entirely, it would continue to be an 
obstacle for those CMV drivers who may actually be safe but cannot 
accumulate the necessary one year of experience because of State driver 
qualification policies. FMCSA would continue to use the driver's entire 
motor vehicle record as opposed to only the CMV record as a way to 
evaluate safety performance.
Option Two: The Driving Experience Criterion Would Be Removed
    Removing the driving experience requirement would be consistent 
with the principles of FMCSA's Diabetes Exemption Program. FMCSA would 
continue to consider the driver's entire motor vehicle record but would 
not require a specific amount of driving experience.
    FMCSA would ask for an examination by the ophthalmologist or 
optometrist to be reported within the last 3 months from the date of 
application. FMCSA believes that this would avoid the risk of recent 

B. Driving and Crash Record

    The current criterion discussed above states that a driver must 
have no convictions for a serious traffic violation, as defined in 49 
CFR 383.51(c). The Agency proposes to change this to include all 
provisions of 49 CFR 383.51 (b) and (c).
    The current criteria, discussed above, recommend denial of an 
exemption for any driver who was involved in a crash, whether the crash 
occurred while driving a CMV, a personal automobile or a motorcycle, 
where the driver's actions were a contributing factor or the driver 
received a citation for a moving traffic violation in a CMV. In this 
context, FMCSA proposes using the following definition of ``accident'' 
from 49 CFR 390.5 as being synonymous with ``crash'':
    1. An occurrence involving a CMV operating on a highway in 
interstate or intrastate commerce which results in:
    (i) A fatality;
    (ii) Bodily injury to a person who, as a result of the injury, 
receives immediate medical treatment away from the scene of the 
accident; or
    (iii) One or more motor vehicles incurring disabling damage as a 
result of the accident, requiring the motor vehicle(s) to be 
transported away from the scene by a tow truck or other motor vehicle.
    In addition, during the period the CMV driver's application or 
renewal is pending, the driver and the employer would be required to 
report immediately to FMCSA any arrests, citations, or convictions for 
any disqualifying offense or other moving violation, or if the driver 
were involved in a crash. Convictions occurring during the processing 
of an exemption application would be considered in the CMV driver's 
overall driving record. Since all CMV driver applications and histories 
are unique, FMCSA would continue to conduct reviews on an individual 

C. Otherwise Qualified Physical Qualification Determination

    FMCSA proposes to change the current signed driver's statement 
criterion. The existing application requests the applicant to provide a 
signed statement that reads, ``I acknowledge that I must be otherwise 
qualified under 49 CFR 391.41(b)(1)-(13) or hold another valid medical 
exemption before I can legally operate a commercial motor vehicle in 
interstate commerce.'' It does not require a completed Medical 
Examination Report or an accompanying completed Medical Examiner's 
    Rather than rely on a driver's statement, FMCSA proposes that the 
driver undergo an examination by a medical examiner and receive a 
Medical Examiner's Certificate declaring that the driver is physically 
qualified to drive if the medical certificate is accompanied by a 
Federal Vision Exemption. This change would be consistent with the 
FMCSA Diabetes Exemption Program and the current Medical Examiner's 
Certificate. The Medical Examiner's Certificate has a check box for the 
Medical Examiner to indicate that the certificate must be accompanied 
by an exemption or waiver.
    Currently, medical examiners terminate the examination process when 
the driver is unable to pass the visual acuity portion of the 
examination. This practice leads to additional cost for the driver, 
repeated trips to the medical examiner, and uncertainty of the driver's 
actual physical qualifications. If, after undergoing the process for 
the Vision Exemption, the driver returns to the medical examiner and is 
denied a Medical Examiner's Certificate due to a different medical 
condition, he or she would have expended unnecessary resources. 
Requiring an appropriately completed Medical Examiner's Certificate 
would ensure that the driver is otherwise physically qualified to drive 
and allow both the driver and the Agency to avoid expending resources 

Request for Information and Comments

    One of the Agency's purposes for publishing this notice is to 
acquire feedback to ensure we have all of the information necessary to 
make a sound decision when making changes to the Vision Exemption 
Program criteria. Therefore, FMCSA invites interested persons to 
comment on any and all aspects of these proposed changes by submitting 
data, views, arguments, or recommendations concerning any proposed 
changes to the Federal Vision Exemption Program application approval 
criteria. See the ADDRESSES heading above for information on submitting 

    Issued on: December 2, 2013.
Anne S. Ferro,
[FR Doc. 2013-29651 Filed 12-17-13; 8:45 am]

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