Still time to comment on FMCSA’s vision standards proposal

February 16, 2021

Greg Grisolano

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There’s roughly a month for drivers to weigh in on a proposal to change the federal regulations establishing vision standards for commercial motor vehicle operators.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public comment on a notice of proposed rulemaking that published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Jan. 12. The proposed change would allow individuals who can’t meet the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standards in one eye to be deemed physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

“The proposed rule provides an alternative vision standard for individuals who cannot meet either the current FMCSA distant visual acuity or field of vision standard, or both, in one eye,” the notice stated. “If adopted. (the proposal) would replace the current vision exemption program as a basis for determining the physical qualification of such individuals to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The proposed action would ensure that these individuals are physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely.”

About 25 comments have been submitted so far via the Regulations.Gov website, many of them from truckers who say they support a change.

“I have been driving CMV for 40 years and have been restricted to intrastate driving only. My left eye is only 20/200 and has been that way all my life. It does not hinder me in any way,” wrote Frank Zimmerman, an OOIDA life member from Yeehaw Junction, Fla.

Zimmerman wrote that he’s missed out on “many good-paying” interstate loads, but having the restrictions removed from his CDL would “increase my income greatly.”

FMCSA said the proposed vision standard is based on recommendations from the agency’s Medical Review Board.

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 be qualified, 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.

David Mason, who said he drove truck for 35 years before an eye injury ended his career, thinks the change would be “wise and beneficial” if implemented.

“My vision in one eye can only be corrected to 20-60 and the other is 20-20,” Mason wrote. “My career is over because I can’t read a chart a couple lines smaller. My peripheral vision is fine the colors are fine. A little relaxation on the standards could keep well experienced and safe drivers on the road.”

Trucker Keith Breeding commented that, while he already holds a vision waiver, he’s hoping that the process to get one can be made easier for drivers like him.

“By the time this amendment is decided, I will hopefully have my new two-year waiver, but would very much appreciate the simplification of the procedure in the future,” wrote Breeding, an OOIDA life member from Donaldson, Ind.

A few medical professionals have also weighed in, including Lisa Fuller, a certified medical examiner since 2004.

“I feel the vision standard of 20/40 is loose enough as should stand as is,” Fuller wrote in her comments. “As such, the minimum of three-year driving record is how I advise, if any state grants driving with worse vision than the FMCSA standard.”

Fuller wrote that she would advise against FMCSA altering the three-year period before allowing any vision waiver.

Comments on the notice of proposed rulemaking will be accepted through March 15. To submit comments, go here. LL

Greg Grisolano joined Land Line in 2013. He was formerly a reporter for the Joplin Globe. He brings business writing and photography skills to Land Line, and has a passion for finding and telling stories about the people who make up the trucking industry.