Feds greenlight more partially blind, deaf, seizure-prone truck drivers

Truck drivers who are partially blind, hearing impaired, or seizure-prone could soon find themselves behind the wheel in the latest round of exemptions from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

Federal regulations prohibit truck drivers with these conditions from operating commercial motor vehicles because they could endanger other people on the roads. But the FMCSA commonly issues exemptions for drivers the agency believes can safely manage their conditions.

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The FMCSA said Friday it will allow 35 partially blind truck drivers to hit the roads. The agency will also consider exemptions for six drivers who are prone to seizures and 17 who suffer from hearing impairments.

Truck safety groups warn these moves will unnecessarily put other drivers at risk, but disability advocates say it is a step in the right direction.

Some of the truck drivers fail to meet the federal vision requirements, because they have a prosthetic eye, retinal detachment, retinal scar, corneal scar, cataract, macular degeneration, or a complete loss of vision in one eye.

"FMCSA recognizes that some drivers do not meet the vision requirement but have adapted their driving to accommodate their vision limitation and demonstrated their ability to drive safely," the agency wrote.

Meanwhile, the FMCSA is also considering allowing drivers who are seizure-prone but have not suffered an episode in more than five years to operate commercial motor vehicles.

"Numerous drivers are being prohibited from operating (trucks) in interstate commerce based on the fact that they have had one or more seizures and are taking anti-seizure medication, rather than an individual analysis of their circumstances by a qualified medical examiner," the agency wrote.

The public has 30 days to comment on the exemptions for drivers who are prone to seizures or have hearing impairments.