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DOT Physical - Driver Exemptions

Last Updated: Dec 5, 2016

What New Drivers Need To Know About DOT Physical Exam Exemptions:

In certain cases, CDL drivers cannot meet the DOT medical requirements regarding physical impairment, vision, hearing or diabetes, and cannot obtain a medical card. The FMCSA allows you to apply for exemptions that will keep you driving.

All FMCSA exemptions apply only to drivers of CMV's that intend to drive interstate. The FMCSA has no regulatory authority over intrastate driving.

Generally, a DOT physical exemption will only be granted if doing so ensures a level of safety equal to or greater than than the level maintained without the exemption. In other words, the FMCSA will not lower the standards of safety to grant exemptions.

The FMCSA states that a decision will be made for exemption applications within 180 days, and exemptions that meet the criteria will be decided case-by-case.

Driver Exemptions Programs:

The FMCSA provides exemption programs for drivers who cannot meet the requirements for Diabetes, Vision, Physical Impairments, or Hearing.

Diabetes Exemption Package:

FMCSA regulation 49 341.41 (3) requires that a CMV driver: "Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus currently requiring insulin for control;".

Diabetes patients who require the regular use of insulin can apply for an exemption using the forms below:

Applicants for diabetes exemptions will be required to submit extensive and complete supporting medical documentation according to the requirements listed below.

Diabetes Exemption Criteria & Requirements:

Diabetes Administrative Criteria:
  • Must meet all requirements for commercial drivers.
  • Must driver interstate and not for any local/state/county/federal government.
  • Must be insulin treated for a minimum of 30 to 60 days.
  • Must be without severe hypoglycemic episodes for 1 year and no more than 1 in the past 5 years
  • Must meet all other physical qualifications in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(1-13) Qualifications Of Drivers And Longer Combination Vehicle (LCV) Driver Instructors or hold the appropriate exemption/waiver (e.g. Vision).
  • Must submit a complete application which documents support from bc/be endocrinologist, and must hold a valid ME Certificate.
  • Must have documentation of current diabetes education.
Diabetes Medical Criteria:
  • MUST be examined by a BC/BE endocrinologist.
  • MUST be On insulin (meet the 30-day/60 day requirement).
  • Should have stable control. No severe hypoglycemic reaction that results in seizure or loss of consciousness or requiring assistance of another person or period of impaired cognitive function that occurred without warning: within one year and no more than 1 episode within the last 5 years (of application)
  • Does not have the associated medical conditions/complications - e.g. no loss of position sense, cardiac autoneuropathy.
  • No large fluctuations in BG levels that may impact safe driving.
  • Endo supports the application - the applicant.
  • Understands how to individually manage/monitor his/her DM.
  • Demonstrated the ability/willingness to properly monitor/manage their diabetes.
  • Is able to safely operate CMV in interstate commerce while using insulin.
  • Received/participated in a diabetes education program, at least annually to apply for and remain in the program.
Diabetes Vision Criteria:
  • Field of vision - must be greater than 70 degrees in each eye.
  • Visual acuity - must be 20/40 or better in each eye.
  • Diabetic retinopathy/other vision conditions must be stable, e.g. macular edema, glaucoma ; no vision loss, unstable retinopathy, etc.

Vision Exam Exemption Package:

Drivers who cannot pass the vision portion of the DOT physical can apply for an exemption using the forms below:

See Also: DOT Eye & Vision Exam Requirements

Vision exemptions are issued for a maximum of 2 years, and are only valid for driving within the United States.

Vision Exemption Criteria & Requirements:

  • Must be 21 years old, a United States resident, and want to drive on an interstate basis.
  • Must not drive for the local/state/county/government. If they do, they must clearly state that the exemption is for other “part-time” work, or a desire to change jobs.
  • Must have a valid license and show that they have driven with the appropriate license during their 3-year period. License must match state of residence.
  • Must have 3-years of CMV operation immediately preceding the date of application with the vision deficiency.
  • Must drive at least 10 hours per week.
  • Must have a safe driving record. Driver cannot be involved in a CMV crash where they are cited and/or contributed to the crash. Additionally, the driver cannot have more than 1 serious violation in a CMV and cannot have more than 2 non-serious moving violations in a CMV. Suspensions are also disqualifying.
  • Vision deficiency must be present for a minimum of 3 years.
  • Vision must be stable.
  • Must meet FMCSA vision standards in the better eye.
  • All applicants must meet all other physical qualifications standards in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(1-13) or hold the appropriate exemption/waiver.

Hearing Exam Exemption Package:

In certain cases, drivers who cannot pass the hearing portion of the DOT physical can apply for an exemption using the forms below:

See Also: DOT Hearing & Ear Test

Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate Program:

The SPE certification allows drivers with missing or impaired limbs to drive CMVs across state lines if they have been fitted with (and are wearing) the right prosthetic device, and the driver can demonstrate the ability to drive the truck safely by completing on-and off-road activities.

Drivers with physical impairments which affect their ability to safely operate CMVs according to their medical examiners, or with missing limbs (e.g., a hand or finger, an arm, foot or leg), are required to obtain SPE certificates.

You Can Visit the FMCSA Driver Exemption Page here.

It is important to note that these exemptions apply ONLY to drivers who will be involved in interstate commerce. You are not eligible if your travel will not take you outside of your home state.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

CMV:

Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

Interstate Commerce:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Intrastate:

The act of purchasers and sellers transacting business while keeping all transactions in a single state, without crossing state lines to do so.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

Fm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

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