As part of its commitment to keep America’s roadways safe, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires all drivers to submit to regular physical exams. Those with a known condition such as diabetes or vision problems that could impact safety must carry a medical card from the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT operates an exemption program for drivers who typically drive interstate, which means they travel outside of their state of origin and potentially out of the country.
How to get a medical card exemption from the DOT
The instructions for obtaining a medical card exemption vary depending on your specific health condition. For example, drivers who have diabetes but no other potentially disqualifying health conditions should visit both an endocrinologist and an optometrist or ophthalmologist to check insulin levels and vision. This ensures that both are safe enough for you to continue operating a large commercial vehicle. You will also need to gather the following documentation:
- Applicant information checklist
- Medical examination certificate and report
- Evaluation checklist from the endocrinology and vision appointments
- Copy of your driver’s license and driving record
After gathering the above materials, you should send them to the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE Room W64-224, Washington, D.C. 20590. If you receive the medical exemption, FMCSA regulations require you to continue receiving quarterly and annual exams from an endocrinologist.
You may qualify for the vision exemption with the DOT if you can prove that you successfully drove a commercial vehicle for the past three years even with your vision condition. You will mail your application to the same address as above except that the first line should state Vision Program.
Skill Performance Evaluation
If you are missing an arm or leg, it may still be possible to obtain a DOT medical card if you pass a skill performance evaluation. FMCSA regulations require you to visit a doctor for a prosthetic fitting before scheduling the skills test. On the day of your driving test, you will need to demonstrate proficient skills in both on-road and off-road situations.
Upon passing the test, submit your official certificate application to the closest Skill Performance Evaluation Center in your area. You will also need to include a copy of your driving record for the past three years and a copy of your most recent medical exam.
When does the FMCSA allow drivers to apply for a waiver?
You can request a waiver from the FMCSA if one or more of its current medical regulations would make it exceptionally challenging for you to drive a commercial vehicle due to a non-emergency medical event expected to resolve in three months or less.
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FMCSRs Section 381.210 and 391.310