Medical Review Board proposes increasing vision standards for monocular CMV drivers

August 23, 2021

Land Line Staff

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration asked its Medical Review Board to weigh in on proposed changes to vision standards for commercial motor vehicles. The board responded by recommending the agency increase the current requirements from 70 degrees to 120 degrees.

On Tuesday, Aug. 24, the report will publish in the Federal Register, giving the public another opportunity to weigh in. The comment period is expected to last 30 days.

The move to update the current vision standards for commercial drivers to allow individuals who have a vision impairment in one eye will allow safe, experienced drivers to stay on the road began earlier this year.

In January, FMCSA issued a proposal that would allow individuals who can’t meet the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standards in one eye. The proposal would amend regulations to permit individuals 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 commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce.

The new rule would require drivers to complete a road test before being allowed on the road unless they have three years of intrastate or other qualifying driving experience with the vision deficiency. To qualify, the driver must have at least 20/40 vision in the other eye with or without corrective lenses and a field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian.

The comment period closed on March 15, with the agency receiving 69 comments.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments in support of changing the vision standards.

In May, FMCSA requested its Medical Review Board review and analyze the comments from medical professionals and associations and make recommendations regarding the proposed alternative vision standard.

The Association continues to support FMCSA’s original call for a 70-degree field of vision, rather than the medical board’s recommendation, said Jay Grimes, OOIDA director of federal affairs.

“The research presented in FMCSA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking earlier this year demonstrated that individuals with monocular vision can safely operate a CMV,” Grimes said. “There is also considerable medical literature indicating that individuals with vision loss in one eye can and do develop compensatory viewing behavior to mitigate their vision loss…We support a final rulemaking that maintains the 70 degree field of vision requirement rather than the 120 degree requirement recommended by MRB.”

Grimes also said the proposed alternative vision standard will provide a performance-based approach and will help eliminate excessive waiting times for monocular drivers that qualify.

OOIDA hopes a final rule will be published by the end of 2021. LL

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