A U.S. Court of Appeals has reversed the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to deny a vision waiver to a one-armed driver and ordered the agency to come up with a way to evaluate driving skills based on individual capabilities.
Ohio trucker Jerry W. Parker lost part of his left arm in a grain elevator accident 20 years ago and has limited vision in his right eye. While he does not meet federal physical requirements to operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce, he is currently licensed to drive intrastate in Ohio. Parker has been a truck driver since 1985 and has logged over 1.2 million incident-free miles.
Although federal regulations require the use of all limbs, "otherwise qualified" drivers can obtain medical waivers. In 1996 DOT’s Federal Highway Administration also began issuing waivers to drivers with impaired vision in one eye. (The waiver program is now handled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.) Parker applied but was turned down.
In court papers DOT admitted that Parker would have been granted a waiver if he only suffered one of his disabilities. However the agency said it has no performance data regarding the performance of drivers with multiple disabilities, and therefore no standard to ensure that granting Parker’s waiver request would not compromise safety.
U.S. District Judge Sandra S. Beckwith for the Southern District of Ohio called DOT’s decision "arbitrary and capricious." When the vision waiver was initiated, she wrote in the March 17 decision, "it relied on several studies which indicated that 'the best predictor of future performance by a driver is his past record of accidents and traffic violations.' Parker has clearly demonstrated that despite his multiple impairments, he is able to safety operate a CMV."
Moreover, the fact that DOT hasn't attempted to consider a driving test with a review of Parker's safety record "contradicts goals and purposes of the Rehabilitation Act." The Act requires equal opportunities for disabled individuals, including assistance with obtaining employment. Beckwith sent Parker’s case back to DOT for reconsideration and ordered
the agency to create a functional capacity test which will evaluate his driving skills based on individual capabilities.
For additional information e-mail Parker’s attorney, Gerald Von Korff, Rinke-Noonan, St. Cloud, MN, firstname.lastname@example.org.