OOIDA supports FMCSA’s change to vision standards for CMV drivers

March 16, 2021

Land Line Staff


Updating 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.

That’s the position of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, as stated in formal comments filed on Monday, March 15, in support of a proposed rule put forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

OOIDA supports changing the regulations to allow those 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 vehicle in interstate commerce.

The Association says the rule will offer a performance-based approach and help to eliminate excessive waiting times for drivers who can meet the proposed vision standards.

“The research presented demonstrates that individuals with monocular vision can safely operate a CMV,” wrote OOIDA President Todd Spencer. “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.”

To be qualified under the proposed rule, the individual 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 individual also must be able to recognize the colors of traffic signals, have a stable vision deficiency, and have had sufficient time to adapt to and compensate for the change in vision.

Medical professionals would evaluate and make medical qualification determinations instead of FMCSA, as in the current exemption program. Motor carriers would administer the road tests. The proposal is based on recommendations from FMCSA’s Medical Review Board.

The current standard, which has been in place since 1970, requires drivers to have at least 20/40 vision in both eyes. Monocular vision is a disqualification unless a driver goes through the waiver process, which includes a three-year period of intrastate driving without any serious offenses, suspensions or revocations of driving privileges, or involvement in a reportable crash, and no more than two convictions for moving violations in a CMV.

Spencer said that in many cases, drivers with decades of experience without any at-fault crashes have to leave the profession because of the economic obstacles associated with the current monocular vision standards.

The prolonged period of required intrastate driving can discourage these drivers from staying in the industry.

“We believe the proposed reforms will allow safe and experienced drivers to stay on the road,” he wrote. “The alternative process that still requires consultation with and approval from medical professionals will also help eliminate time and paperwork burdens that are required under the FMCSA vision exemption program. This will save some costs for monocular drivers and reduce barriers to entry for both active and future CMV drivers.”

Research included in the proposal shows that monocular drivers operating on a vision waiver are involved in a lower rate of crashes per driver per year than the national average.

If approved, the proposed action would eliminate the need for the current federal vision exemption program, as well as the grandfather provision in 49 CFR 391.64 for drivers operating under the previously administered vision waiver study program. LL