The one document that every commercial truck driver must have in order to pick up top paying truck driving jobs is a CDL. You must get a commercial driver’s license in either a Class A, B, or C before you can get paid as a truck driver. In addition, you can add endorsements including tank, doubles/triples, hazardous materials, and passenger to your CDL. However, there are instances where you cannot get your CDL due to medical conditions or health concerns. Here is a comprehensive guide to all of the CDL medical exemptions you can apply for to be able to get your CDL with a waiver.
About Waivers and Exemptions
Truck drivers must pass a Department of Transportation physical exam in order to get their CDL. Drivers can request exemptions for certain aspects of this exam including hearing and vision. For example, say a truck driver is unable to pass the standard vision test as part of the DOT physical exam. They may be able to get a waiver that bypasses this so they can get their CDL and continue working as a truck driver.
The key is to ensure the driver is safe on the road, which is where the waiver process comes in. Along with a vision waiver, commercial truck drivers can apply for vision, diabetes, and seizures waivers, as well as missing and impaired limbs SPE certificate exemptions. Note that these Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration waivers are only available for interstate truck drivers who handle OTR trucking jobs. Here is a breakdown of how you can apply for each of these programs administered by the FMCSA.
The FMCSA vision waiver is available for drivers who do not meet the vision test. The DOT physical examination requires drivers to meet the following vision standards:
- Have a minimum of 20/40 vision in both eyes and each eye individually
For truck drivers who are suffering from temporary vision issues, such as due to an injury or illness, they can apply for a General Vision Exemption. Truck drivers who do not meet the vision requirements of 20/40 vision can also apply for the waiver. Indiana truck drivers and Florida truck drivers need to comply with additional state-specific instructions for the waiver program.
Truck drivers are also required to pass hearing tests as part of the DOT physical exam. This standard requirement for hearing is as follows:
- Must be able to hear a forced whisper at a distance of at least five feet
- Hearing loss in the better ear must be less than 40 decibels when measured at 500 Hz, 1,00 Hz, and 2,000 Hz
One concern for truck drivers, especially truck drivers with years of behind the wheel experience, is that hearing loss is an age-related issue. As everyone ages, they lose some of their hearing naturally. For truck drivers who are borderline for the vision standard, this can lead to the loss of their trucking job. That is why it is good to have the hearing waiver in mind for later in your career.
Keep in mind if you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can become a truck driver. The National Association of the Deaf reports that the DOT has updated the hearing standard to include a hearing waiver for deaf drivers. These drivers have to show that they can safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.
The hearing waiver includes a medical release form that must be completed in full by a number of medical professionals. You are required to release your medical history in order to be eligible for the hearing waiver.
New Diabetes Standard Waiver
As of September 2018, the diabetes waiver for truck drivers has changed. The change for the waiver is that there is a new form that needs to be filled out—the Insulin-Treated Diabetes Mellitus Assessment Form. If you are a trucker with diabetes that is treated using insulin, also known as ITDM for insulin-treated diabetes mellitus, then you can apply for a waiver.
The medical waiver is granted to truck drivers who are on a stable insulin regimen and are controlling their diabetes according to this regimen. This typically includes taking insulin according to a schedule and eating a diet that is beneficial to diabetics.
The Federal Seizure Exemption is available for truck drivers who suffer epilepsy or some other seizure disorder. Typically, truckers with seizures are prohibited from driving a commercial vehicle. However, with this exemption process, if you are able to prove you have been properly diagnosed and are being treated for seizures so that you are safe to drive a truck, then you may be granted this waiver.
Missing or Impaired Limbs
The Skill Performance Evaluation program is available for truck drivers with missing or impaired limbs. The SPE program grants certificates to allow truckers who are missing limbs or who wear prosthetics to be able to drive a commercial truck over the road. More than 3,000 truck drivers have received an SPE Certificate since the SPE program was started according to the FMCSA. There are two locations where you can go to get your SPE Certificate:
- Matteson, Illinois
- Atlanta, Georgia
These locations service the Eastern, Midwestern, Southern, and Western US with SPE service centers. Truck drivers who apply for the SPE Certificate are required to complete an extensive list of assessments, and several documents must be gathered for the application. Therefore, it is recommended that you get started as soon as possible if you want to apply for an SPE Certificate for a missing or impaired limbs waiver as a commercial truck driver.