As part of its requirements for the Driver Fitness portion of its Behavioral Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASIC) program, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires drivers to undergo a medical examination to prove fitness for duty. Drivers must then present a copy of the medical certificate to the State Driver License Agency (SDLA) in the state where they received their commercial driver’s license (CDL).
It’s your responsibility as a commercial driver to schedule a general physical and receive a new medical certificate when your old one is about to expire. Each medical certificate you receive is only good for a period of two years. You must obtain a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical exam from a provider listed on the National Registry for the FMCSA.
FMCSA requirements for drivers who have obtained a variance
The term variance refers to an exception granted by the FMCSA for drivers with certain medical condition. The FMCSA allows you to retain employment as a commercial driver as long as you keep your variance current. If you do receive a variance, you must keep it with your medical certificate in your driver qualification file. You should also carry a copy of the variance certificate with you whenever you are working.
Types of medical conditions that might qualify for a variance
The most common medical conditions the FMCSA grants variances for include:
- Hearing loss
- Impaired or missing limbs
- Vision issues
You will undergo a slightly different medical evaluation process if you already know that you have one of these conditions. To obtain a variance, you must provide complete and honest information about your medical condition as well as your driving record and experience.
Physical Requirements for Drivers Under Section 391.41
The FMCSA maintains an extensive list of qualifications drivers must meet to obtain clearance to operate a large commercial vehicle. Section 391.41 pertains to only the physical requirements and includes the following:
- Complied with all requirements for the medical examination
- If missing an arm, hand, leg, or foot, driver has passed a separate performance evaluation under Section 391.49
- No diagnosis of insulin-dependent diabetes unless received a variance
- No diagnosis of a serious cardiac-related condition
- No diagnosis of significant respiratory dysfunction
- No diagnosis of arthritis or a related condition that can impede ability to operate steering wheel, brakes, or other controls safely
- No diagnosis of epilepsy severe enough to prevent safe operation of commercial vehicle
- No psychiatric disorder that would prevent safe driving
- Passes vision and hearing screenings unless received a variance
- No indications of alcoholism or drug dependence
Keep in mind that the FMCSA must balance public safety with fairness to those with medical conditions who desire to earn their living as a commercial truck driver.
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