FMCSA’s New Vision Standard Replaces Current CDL DRIVER Vision Exemption Program

The FMCSA issued a final rule that allows certain CDL drivers with otherwise disqualifying visual acuity and field of vision conditions the chance to maintain their CDL medical qualification under a new alternative vision standard.

Currently, drivers with visual acuity and field of vision deficiencies are prohibited from driving CMVs in interstate commerce unless they obtain an exemption from FMCSA.

The new rule is good news for energy marketers because it provides drivers with vision deficiencies additional avenues to obtain a medical certificate required for operating a commercial motor vehicle.

The new alternative vision standard replaces the current vision exemption program as the basis for determining the physical qualification of these drivers.

The new standard requires drivers with disqualifying vision conditions to obtain a Vision Evaluation Report (Form MCSA-5871) from a specialist, such as an ophthalmologist or optometrist, in addition to undergoing the current physical qualification exam conducted by a DOT certified medical examiner (ME).

The ophthalmologist or optometrist records the findings of the vision evaluation and provides specific medical opinions on the new Vision Evaluation Report.

The ME is not required to follow the vision specialist’s recommendation as to the individual’s visual qualifications but only take it under consideration.

Individuals physically qualified for the first time under the alternative vision standard must satisfactorily complete a road test before operating in interstate commerce.

The employing motor carrier conducts the road test in accordance with road test standards already required under 49 CFR § 391.31.

CDL drivers are exempted from the road test requirement if they have 3 years of intrastate or specific excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, hold a valid Federal vision exemption, or are medically certified under the previously administered vision waiver study program in 49 CFR § 391.64(b).

Exemption holders have 1 year after the effective date of the final rule to comply with the alternative vision standard, at which time all exemptions issued under 49 U.S.C. 31315(b) become void.

Medical certificates issued to drivers using the alternative vision standards are valid for up to 12 months.

The FMCSA has not yet released Form MCSA-5871 but will do so soon.

The FMCSA rule only applies to interstate drivers. However, many states adopt the FMCSA regulations for intrastate drivers.

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