When STC educates motor carriers around the country, we always include pertinent background information. Understanding where a program comes from helps you anticipate challenges and predict changes. The recently published FMCSA proposed rulemaking (on January 12, 2021) to adjust the vision standard to allow monocular drivers to operate a CMV without a waiver is a perfect example. Nearly a decade ago, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) filed a petition requesting that 21 drivers be granted an exemption from the minimum hearing standards. This request generated significant buzz in the industry and among interested parties. We’re not here to debate the merits of such exemptions, just to point out that one response was to highlight the fact that FMCSA had already determined, presumably with the help of experts, what the minimum standard should be and wrote them into the rulebook. But present-day FMCSA regularly grants waivers to these rules, confusing drivers and carriers about what standard drivers should be held and how to properly qualify a driver.
Of course, in the case of the hearing standard, the jury is still out. But the criticism about the lack of reliable minimum health standards has led to greater government scrutiny of all medical waiver programs. Two years ago, FMCSA finalized new rules adjusting the diabetes standards and eliminating the waiver program. Last year FMCSA published a new NAD petition, this time to permanently adjust the hearing standard. Now FMCSA is proposing to permanently adjust the vision standards and eliminate the associated waiver program. The writing is usually on the wall somewhere, but often it’s behind you.