A review board that advises federal regulators on medical standards for truck drivers recommends stricter standards for drivers with vision loss than originally proposed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board (MRB), a five-member panel of physicians that provides expert advice to the agency, recommends that the current field-of-vision requirement for drivers with vision loss in one eye be changed from 70 degrees to 120 degrees in a proposed alternative vision standard being considered by FMCSA.

The alternative standard was part of a rulemaking proposal that opened for public comment in January. It included provisions aimed at allowing those with vision loss in one eye who meet the new standard to be deemed qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) without having to apply to the FMCSA for an exemption.

In addition to the field-of-vision requirement, the alternative standard requires that drivers have at least 20/40 vision in their better eye, be able to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green and amber, and have a vision deficiency that is stable.

The rulemaking generated 69 comments, including a recommendation from the health care company Concentra that the original field-of-vision requirement proposed by FMCSA be tightened.

“The field of vision issue needs to be addressed,” the company stated in comments filed in March.

“FMCSA has long considered 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian in each eye to be sufficient. However, normal field of vision is twice that. A driver with monocular vision and a field of horizontal vision that meets the 70 degree minimum has a markedly decreased field of vision. We would recommend that 120 degrees bilaterally be considered the minimum acceptable standard … and drivers not meeting this standard be disqualified.”

The MRB supported Concentra’s recommendation and incorporated it in its review of the proposed rule which it submitted to the agency in July. The FMCSA is opening a 30-day comment period starting Tuesday for the public to respond to MRB’s recommendations.

Drivers who cannot meet either the current distant-visual-acuity or field-of-vision standard, or both, in one eye are prohibited from driving commercial trucks in interstate commerce unless they obtain an exemption from FMCSA. Under the current exemption program, drivers with a vision deficiency in one eye are required to have three years of driving experience with the vision deficiency within a state.

However, those who qualify under the proposed alternate vision standard would complete a road test, conducted by the carrier, before operating in interstate commerce. Drivers would be waived from the road test requirement if they have three years of intrastate or excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, hold a valid federal vision exemption, or are medically certified.

“FMCSA finds that a road test would be an appropriate indicator of an individual’s ability to operate a CMV safely with the vision deficiency,” the agency stated.

Related articles:

FMCSA proposes eliminating vision exemptions for drivers
FMCSA denies exemptions for drivers traveling with pets
Should FMCSA lift restrictions on deaf drivers?

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