The program, started by the Federal Highway Administration, has drawn continuous criticism from safety groups, including the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. In this round of proposed exemptions, AHAS argued that a recent Supreme Court decision affects the legal validity of vision exemptions. Specifically, the Court ruled that an employer was not required to accept an OMCS exemption as a substitute for compliance with a physical qualification standard.
OMCS says the decision is consistent with federal safety regulations, which allow carriers to establish more stringent safety requirements. Thus it says it will continue to issue exemptions to drivers who meet all qualifications, but the agency emphasizes that “the OMCS has no power to require motor carriers to hire drivers with vision exemptions.”
The American Trucking Assns. also continued its opposition to the broad issuance of vision exemptions but indicated it may support those granted on a case-by-case basis. “That is precisely what the agency has done,” OMCS responded, noting that applicants are evaluated individually. In general, however, exemptions are granted only to drivers with impaired vision in only one eye. They must have at least three years of experience driving with impaired vision and must have a safe driving record. The exemptions are good for two years during which time the drivers must undergo regular vision and physical exams.
The notice was published in the November 30 Federal Register, available on the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html. For additional information, contact Sandra Zywokarte, Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards, (202) 366-2987.