[Federal Register: April 14, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 72)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
[Docket No. FMCSA-2005-23238]
Qualification of Drivers; Exemption Applications; Vision
AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of final disposition.
SUMMARY: FMCSA announces its decision to exempt 14 individuals from the
vision requirement in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations
(FMCSR). The exemptions will enable these individuals to operate
commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) in interstate commerce without meeting
the vision standard prescribed in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10). The Agency has
concluded that granting these exemptions will provide a level of safety
that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of safety maintained
without the exemptions for these CMV drivers.
DATES: The exemptions are effective April 14, 2006.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. Mary D. Gunnels, Chief, Physical
Qualifications Division, (202) 366-4001, email@example.com,
FMCSA, Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW.,
Washington, DC 20590-0001. Office hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.,
e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
You may see all the comments online through the Document Management
System (DMS) at http://dmses.dot.gov.
On January 31, 2006, FMCSA published a Notice of receipt of
exemption applications from 14 individuals, and requested comments from
the public (71 FR 5105). The 14 individuals petitioned FMCSA for
exemptions from the vision requirement in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10), which
applies to drivers of CMVs in interstate commerce. They are: Nick D.
Bacon, Donald G. Bostic, Jr., Johnny W. Bradford, Aaron C. Buck, James
C. Davis, James H. Eldridge, Jr., Michael G. Gould, Albert L. Gschwind,
Bruce A. Homan, Matthew J. Konecki, Rick P. Moreno, Roy J. Oltman,
Monte L. Purciful, and Bernard J. Wood.
Under 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e), FMCSA may grant an exemption
for a 2-year period if it finds "such exemption would likely achieve a
level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level that
would be achieved absent such exemption." The statute also allows the
Agency to renew exemptions at the end of the 2-year period.
Accordingly, FMCSA has evaluated the 14 applications on their merits
and made a determination to grant exemptions to all of them. The
comment period closed on March 2, 2006. Three comments were received,
and fully considered by FMCSA in reaching the final decision to grant
Vision and Driving Experience of the Applicants
The vision requirement in the FMCSR provides:
A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor
vehicle if that person has distant visual acuity of at least 20/40
(Snellen) in each eye without corrective lenses or visual acuity
separately corrected to 20/40 (Snellen) or better with corrective
lenses, distant binocular acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen) in both
eyes with or without corrective lenses, field of vision of at least
70[deg] in the horizontal meridian in each eye, and the ability to
recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard
red, green, and amber (49 CFR 391.41(b)(10)).
Since 1992, the Agency has undertaken studies to determine if this
vision standard should be amended. The final report from our medical
panel recommends changing the field of vision standard from 70 to 120
degrees, while leaving the visual acuity standard unchanged. (See Frank
C. Berson, M.D., Mark C. Kuperwaser, M.D., Lloyd Pual Aiello, M.D., and
James W. Rosenberg, M.D., "Visual Requirements and Commercial
Drivers," October 16, 1998, filed in the docket, FMCSA-98-4334). The
panel's conclusion supports the Agency's view that the present visual
acuity standard is reasonable and necessary as a general standard to
ensure highway safety. FMCSA also [[Page 19601]] recognizes that some drivers do not meet the vision standard, but have
adapted their driving to accommodate their vision limitation and
demonstrated their ability to drive safely.
The 14 exemption applicants listed in this Notice fall into this
category. They are unable to meet the vision standard in one eye for
various reasons, including amblyopia, glaucoma, cataract macular
degeneration and loss of an eye due to trauma. In most cases, their eye
conditions were not recently developed. All but eight of the applicants
were either born with their vision impairments or have had them since
childhood. The eight individuals who sustained their vision conditions
as adults have had them for periods ranging from 6 to 26 years.
Although each applicant has one eye which does not meet the vision
standard in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10), each has at least 20/40 corrected
vision in the other eye, and in a doctor's opinion has sufficient
vision to perform all the tasks necessary to operate a CMV. Doctors'
opinions are supported by the applicants' possession of valid
commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) or non-CDLs to operate CMVs. Before
issuing CDLs, States subject drivers to knowledge and skills tests
designed to evaluate their qualifications to operate a CMV. All these
applicants satisfied the testing standards for their State of
residence. By meeting State licensing requirements, the applicants
demonstrated their ability to operate a commercial vehicle, with their
limited vision, to the satisfaction of the State.
While possessing a valid CDL or non-CDL, these 14 drivers have been
authorized to drive a CMV in intrastate commerce, even though their
vision disqualified them from driving in interstate commerce. They have
driven CMVs with their limited vision for careers ranging from 4 to 45
years. In the past 3 years, none of the drivers have had any
convictions for traffic violations and none of them were involved in
The qualifications, experience, and medical condition of each
applicant were stated and discussed in detail in the January 31, 2006
Notice (71 FR 5105).
Basis for Exemption Determination
Under 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e), FMCSA may grant an exemption
from the vision standard in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10) if the exemption is
likely to achieve an equivalent or greater level of safety than would
be achieved without the exemption. Without the exemption, applicants
will continue to be restricted to intrastate driving. With the
exemption, applicants can drive in interstate commerce. Thus, our
analysis focuses on whether an equal or greater level of safety is
likely to be achieved by permitting each of these drivers to drive in
interstate commerce as opposed to restricting him or her to driving in
To evaluate the effect of these exemptions on safety, FMCSA
considered not only the medical reports about the applicants' vision,
but also their driving records and experience with the vision
deficiency. To qualify for an exemption from the vision standard, FMCSA
requires a person to present verifiable evidence that he/she has driven
a commercial vehicle safely with the vision deficiency for 3 years.
Recent driving performance is especially important in evaluating future
safety, according to several research studies designed to correlate
past and future driving performance. Results of these studies support
the principle that the best predictor of future performance by a driver
is his/her past record of crashes and traffic violations. Copies of the
studies may be found at docket number FMCSA-98-3637.
We believe we can properly apply the principle to monocular
drivers, because data from the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA)
former waiver study program clearly demonstrate the driving performance
of experienced monocular drivers in the program is better than that of
all CMV drivers collectively. (See 61 FR 13338, 13345, March 26, 1996.)
The fact that experienced monocular drivers with good driving records
in the waiver program demonstrated their ability to drive safely
supports a conclusion that other monocular drivers, meeting the same
qualifying conditions as those required by the waiver program, are also
likely to have adapted to their vision deficiency and will continue to
The first major research correlating past and future performance
was done in England by Greenwood and Yule in 1920. Subsequent studies,
building on that model, concluded that crash rates for the same
individual exposed to certain risks for two different time periods vary
only slightly. (See Bates and Neyman, University of California
Publications in Statistics, April 1952.) Other studies demonstrated
theories of predicting crash proneness from crash history coupled with
other factors. These factors--such as age, sex, geographic location,
mileage driven and conviction history--are used every day by insurance
companies and motor vehicle bureaus to predict the probability of an
individual experiencing future crashes. (See Weber, Donald C.,
"Accident Rate Potential: An Application of Multiple Regression
Analysis of a Poisson Process," Journal of the American Statistical
Association, June 1971.) A 1964 California Driver Record Study prepared
by the California Department of Motor Vehicles concluded that the best
overall crash predictor for both concurrent and nonconcurrent events is
the number of single convictions. This study used 3 consecutive years
of data, comparing the experiences of drivers in the first 2 years with
their experiences in the final year.
Applying principles from these studies to the past 3-year record of
the 14 applicants, we note that one of the applicants had a traffic
violation for speeding and one of them was involved in a crash. The
applicants achieved this record of safety while driving with their
vision impairment, demonstrating the likelihood that they have adapted
their driving skills to accommodate their condition. As the applicants'
ample driving histories with their vision deficiencies are good
predictors of future performance, FMCSA concludes their ability to
drive safely can be projected into the future.
We believe the applicants' intrastate driving experience and
history provide an adequate basis for predicting their ability to drive
safely in interstate commerce. Intrastate driving, like interstate
operations, involves substantial driving on highways on the interstate
system and on other roads built to interstate standards. Moreover,
driving in congested urban areas exposes the driver to more pedestrian
and vehicular traffic than exists on interstate highways. Faster
reaction to traffic and traffic signals is generally required because
distances between them are more compact. These conditions tax visual
capacity and driver response just as intensely as interstate driving
conditions. The veteran drivers in this proceeding have operated CMVs
safely under those conditions for at least 3 years, most for much
longer. Their experience and driving records lead us to believe that
each applicant is capable of operating in interstate commerce as safely
as he/she has been performing in intrastate commerce. Consequently,
FMCSA finds that exempting these applicants from the vision standard in
49 CFR 391.41(b)(10) is likely to achieve a level of safety equal to
that existing without the exemption. For this reason, the Agency is
granting the exemptions for the 2-year period allowed by 49 U.S.C.
31315 and 31136(e) to the 14 applicants [[Page 19602]] listed in the Notice of January 31, 2006 (71 FR 5105).
We recognize that the vision of an applicant may change and affect
his/her ability to operate a commercial vehicle as safely as in the
past. As a condition of the exemption, therefore, FMCSA will impose
requirements on the 14 individuals consistent with the grandfathering
provisions applied to drivers who participated in the Agency's vision
Those requirements are found at 49 CFR 391.64(b) and include the
following: (1) That each individual be physically examined every year
(a) by an ophthalmologist or optometrist who attests that the vision in
the better eye continues to meet the standard in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10),
and (b) by a medical examiner who attests that the individual is
otherwise physically qualified under 49 CFR 391.41; (2) that each
individual provide a copy of the ophthalmologist's or optometrist's
report to the medical examiner at the time of the annual medical
examination; and (3) that each individual provide a copy of the annual
medical certification to the employer for retention in the driver's
qualification file, or keep a copy in his/her driver's qualification
file if he/she is self-employed. The driver must also have a copy of
the certification when driving, for presentation to a duly authorized
Federal, State, or local enforcement official.
Discussion of Comments
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) expressed
opposition to FMCSA's policy to grant exemptions from the FMCSR,
including the driver qualification standards. Specifically, Advocates:
(1) Objects to the manner in which FMCSA presents driver information to
the public and makes safety determinations; (2) objects to the Agency's
reliance on conclusions drawn from the vision waiver program; (3)
claims the Agency has misinterpreted statutory language on the granting
of exemptions (49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e)); and finally (4) suggests
that a 1999 Supreme Court decision affects the legal validity of vision
The issues raised by Advocates were addressed at length in 64 FR
51568 (September 23, 1999), 64 FR 66962 (November 30, 1999), 64 FR
69586 (December 13, 1999), 65 FR 159 (January 3, 2000), 65 FR 57230
(September 21, 2000), and 66 FR 13825 (March 7, 2001). We will not
address these points again here, but refer interested parties to those
Ms. Barb Sachau opposes the notion of granting vision exemptions to
these drivers. She believes that two fully functional eyes are needed
to drive safely.
Ms. Sachau believes that the approval of vision exemptions make the
roads much more dangerous.
In regard to these comments, the discussion under the heading,
"Basis for Exemption Determination, explains in detail the
evaluation methods the Agency utilizes prior to granting an exemption
to ensure that the granting of an exemption is likely to achieve an
equivalent or greater level of safety than would be achieved without
the exemption. To evaluate the effect of these exemptions on safety,
FMCSA considered not only the medical reports about the applicants'
vision, but also their driving records and experience with the vision
deficiency. To qualify for an exemption from the vision standard, FMCSA
requires a person to present verifiable evidence that he or she has
driven a commercial vehicle safely with the vision deficiency for 3
years. Recent driving performance is especially important in evaluating
future safety, according to several research studies designed to
correlate past and future driving performance. Results of these studies
support the principle that the best predictor of future performance by
a driver is his/her past record of crashes and traffic violations.
Copies of the studies may be found at docket number FMCSA-98-3637.
An anonymous individual stated that he/she is in support of the
vision program due to the thorough screening that all applicants must
Based upon its evaluation of the 14 exemption applications, FMCSA
exempts Nick D. Bacon, Donald G. Bostic, Jr., Johnny W. Bradford, Aaron
C. Buck, James C. Davis, James H. Eldridge, Jr., Michael G. Gould,
Albert L. Gschwind, Bruce A. Homan, Matthew J. Konecki, Rick P. Moreno,
Roy J. Oltman, Monte L. Purciful, and Bernard J. Wood from the vision
requirement in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(10), subject to the requirements cited
above (49 CFR 391.64(b)).
In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e), each exemption
will be valid for 2 years unless revoked earlier by FMCSA. The
exemption will be revoked if: (1) The person fails to comply with the
terms and conditions of the exemption; (2) the exemption has resulted
in a lower level of safety than was maintained before it was granted;
or (3) continuation of the exemption would not be consistent with the
goals and objectives of 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136.
If the exemption is still effective at the end of the 2-year
period, the person may apply to FMCSA for a renewal under procedures in
effect at that time.
Issued on: April 10, 2006.
Larry W. Minor,
Director, Office of Bus and Truck Standards and Operations.
[FR Doc. 06-3587 Filed 4-13-06; 8:45 am]
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