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Effective March 22, 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) made it easier for drivers who do not meet the vision standards to drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

To qualify under the alternative vision standard based on the vision in the better eye, drivers can follow the process detailed in §391.44. The process is as follows:

  • The driver presents to a certified medical examiner (CME) a copy of the Vision Evaluation Report, Form MCSA-5871, signed and dated by an ophthalmologist or optometrist within 45 days of the Department of Transportation (DOT) medical exam;
  • The CME reviews Form 5871 and completes a DOT medical exam, with the option to certify the driver for up to one year; and
  • Before the driver can operate a CMV, unless an exception applies, the carrier completes a road test to verify that the lack of adequate vision in one eye does not affect the driver’s ability to operate safely.

Road test or no road test?

Carriers must know when to administer a road test per §391.31(b) through (g) and when an exception may apply.

If a driver uses the alternative vision standard to receive their medical certification for the first time, the carrier must administer a road test as required in §391.44(d)(1). A copy of the driver’s CDL or a road test certificate issued in the past three years cannot be used instead of the road test.

Any subsequent medical certification using §391.44 does NOT require another road test.

The first step is to have the driver certify in writing the date the vision deficiency began to determine if an exception applies.

The employer can forego the road test if:

1. The driver operated a CDL or non-CDL CMV in intrastate commerce (as allowed by a state waiver) or interstate commerce (under an exception in §390.3(f) or §391.2) and was driving with the vision deficiency for the previous three years before the medical certification for the first time, or

2. The driver held a federal vision exemption or waiver under Part 381 on March 22, 2022, or

3. The driver was grandfathered under §391.64(b) on March 22, 2022.

The drivers who either held a federal waiver/exception or were grandfathered on March 22, 2022, are not required to notify the carrier that they are excepted from the road test. FMCSA does not require additional documentation for these drivers.

Documentation requirements

To properly document that an exception applies to a driver described in Point 1 above, the carrier must prepare a written statement that the driver met either criterion. The carrier must distribute documents as follows:

  • The driver must receive a copy of the carrier’s written statement,
  • The carrier retains a copy of the carrier’s written statement in the driver qualification (DQ) file, and
  • The original written statement and the original, or a copy, of the individual’s certification regarding the date the vision deficiency began must also be in the DQ file.

Keys to remember:

Carriers must be clear on who is eligible for an exception to the road test for drivers medically qualifying under the alternative vision standard for the first time. Carriers must also verify that the proper documents are given to the driver and placed in the DQ file.