National Transportation Consultants

eNews February 2021

New Vision Standard Proposed

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed changing the vision standards to permit individuals who cannot meet either the current distant visual acuity or field of vision standard, or both, in one eye to be physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.

Currently, such individuals are prohibited from driving CMVs in interstate commerce unless they obtain an exemption from FMCSA. The Agency proposes an alternative vision standard for physical qualification that, if adopted, would replace the current vision exemption program as a basis for establishing the physical qualification determination for these individuals.

Just as in the alternative standard for insulin-treated diabetes mellitus, the alternative vision standard would involve a two-step process for physical qualification. First, an individual seeking physical qualification would obtain a vision evaluation from an ophthalmologist or optometrist who would record the findings and provide specific medical opinions on the proposed Vision Evaluation Report. Next, a Medical Examiner (ME) would perform an examination and determine whether the individual meets the proposed vision standard, as well as FMCSA’s other physical qualification standards. If the ME determines that the individual meets the physical qualification standards, the ME could issue a Medical Examiner’s Certificate for a maximum of 12 months.

In making the physical qualification determination, the ME would consider the information in the Vision Evaluation Report, and utilize independent medical judgment to apply four standards. The proposal would provide that, to be physically qualified under the alternative vision standard, the individual must:

  • Have in the better eye distant visual acuity of at least 20/40 (Snellen), with or without corrective lenses, and field of vision of at least 70 degrees in the horizontal meridian;
  • Be able to recognize the colors of traffic signals and devices showing standard red, green, and amber;
  • Have a stable vision deficiency; and
  • Have had sufficient time to adapt to and compensate for the change in vision.

  • It is well recognized that individuals with vision loss in one eye can and do develop compensatory viewing behavior to mitigate the vision loss. Therefore, if an individual meets the proposed vision standard, the Agency expects there will be no adverse impact on safety due to the individual’s vision. Individuals physically qualified under the proposed alternative vision standard for the first time would complete a road test before operating in interstate commerce. Individuals would be excepted from the road test requirement if they have 3 years of intrastate or excepted interstate CMV driving experience with the vision deficiency, hold a valid Federal vision exemption, or are medically certified under § 391.64(b). These individuals have already demonstrated they can operate a CMV safely with the vision deficiency.

    Motor carriers would conduct the road test in accordance with the road test already required by § 391.31. FMCSA finds that a road test would be an appropriate indicator of an individual’s ability to operate a CMV safely with the vision deficiency. Thus, the Agency expects there will be no adverse impact on safety from eliminating the current 3-year intrastate driving experience criterion.

    The proposed standard takes a performance-based approach. The standard emphasizes that the individual has developed the skills to adapt to and compensate for the vision loss once it has been deemed stable by a medical professional, and that the individual has demonstrated the skills to operate a CMV safely.

    Split Sleeper

    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says it has received many comments on the hours of service changes that went into effect last September. Respondents were seeking further flexibility for split sleeper berth. As a result FMCSA is proposing a new pilot program to evaluate a 6/4 and 5/5 sleeper berth split. One limitation is that neither period could be less than 4 hours.

    The pilot program would be used to collect data to determine if the additional splits should be added to the hours of service regulations. Currently the regulations allow a 7/3 or an 8/2 split. FMCSA seeks to enroll between 200 and 400 drivers from small medium and large carriers, as well as team drivers and owner operators.

    The program would collect data on sleep, safety critical events, subjective sleepiness ratings, and behavioral alertness. Data collection methods would include video-based on board monitoring as well as the use of an actigraph which is worn like a wrist watch and measures rest/activity cycles as well as light exposure.

    Unless the pilot program data reveals that these proposed sleeper berth changes will degrade safety, then it’s quite possible the changes will eventually become part of the hours of service regulations.

    Personal Conveyance

    Personal conveyance is the movement of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) for personal use while off-duty. A driver may record time operating a CMV for personal conveyance as off-duty only when the driver is relieved from work and all responsibility for performing work by the motor carrier. The CMV may be used for personal conveyance even if it is laden, since the load is not being transported for the commercial benefit of the motor carrier at that time. Personal conveyance does not reduce a driver’s or motor carrier’s responsibility to operate a CMV safely. Motor carriers can establish personal conveyance limitations stricter than those imposed by FMCSA.

    Examples of appropriate use of Personal Conveyance:

  • Time spent traveling from a driver’s en route lodging (such as a motel or truck stop) to restaurants and entertainment facilities.
  • Commuting between the driver’s terminal and his or her residence, between trailer-drop lots and the driver’s residence, and between work sites and his or her residence. In these scenarios, the commuting distance combined with the release from work and start to work times must allow the driver enough time to obtain the required restorative rest as to ensure the driver is not fatigued. 
  • Time spent traveling to a nearby, reasonable, safe location to obtain required rest after loading or unloading. The time driving under personal conveyance must allow the driver adequate time to obtain the required rest in accordance with minimum off-duty periods under 49 CFR 395.3(a)(1) before returning to on-duty driving, and the resting location must be the first such location reasonably available.
  • Moving a CMV at the request of a safety official during the driver’s off-duty time.
  • Examples of Personal Conveyance that are not appropriate:

  • The movement of a CMV in order to enhance the operational readiness of a motor carrier. For example, bypassing available resting locations in order to get closer to the next loading or unloading point or other scheduled motor carrier destination.
  • After delivering a towed unit, and the towing unit no longer meets the definition of a CMV, the driver returns to the point of origin under the direction of the motor carrier to pick up another towed unit.
  • Continuation of a CMV trip in interstate commerce in order to fulfill a business purpose, including bobtailing or operating with an empty trailer in order to retrieve another load or repositioning a CMV (tractor or trailer) at the direction of the motor carrier.
  • Time spent transporting a CMV to a facility to have vehicle maintenance performed.
  • After being placed out of service for exceeding the maximum periods permitted under part 395, time spent driving to a location to obtain required rest, unless so directed by an enforcement officer at the scene.
  • Time spent traveling to a motor carrier’s terminal after loading or unloading from a shipper or a receiver.
  • Although Personal Conveyance does have appropriate uses, it is not a get out of jail free card that can be used whenever the driver has run out of hours.

    National Transportation Consultants is the leading provider of transportation safety and compliance services to fleets that want to do the right thing, for the right reasons. We work to ensure that our clients need not choose between safety, regulatory compliance and profitability.

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