U.S. trucking regulators have rolled back a rule that barred individuals with insulin-treated diabetes from driving commercial vehicles.
Previously, drivers with insulin-treated diabetes were prohibited from driving commercial motor vehicles unless they received a special exemption from the FMCSA, which can take up to six months to obtain.
The FMCSA’s final rule enables a certified medical examiner to grant an individual with insulin-treated diabetes a certificate, MCSA-5876, which is valid for up to a year. To obtain the certificate, the doctor or other qualified medical professional who manages the driver’s diabetes and prescribes insulin provides a diabetes assessment form to the medical examiner.
The doctor’s form vouches that the driver “maintains a stable insulin regimen and proper control of his or her diabetes,” the FMCSA said. The certified medical examiner still has the final say in whether the driver meets the FMCSA’s physical fitness standards before clearing him or her to drive a commercial vehicle.
The FMCSA estimates that the elimination of the exemption process will save the nearly 5,000 diabetic individuals who currently have exemptions more than $5 million per year or roughly $1,000 each. The new rule also will save new exemption applicants and their motor carriers approximately $215,000 annually in opportunity and compliance costs, the FMCSA said.
The FMCSA’s new rule will also help the trucking industry in the face of a critical shortage of qualified drivers. The commercial trucking industry has grappled with a driver shortage for the last 15 years, and there is little relief in sight. One industry analysis found at the start of 2018 there was just one commercial truck driver available for every 12 loads.
The FMCSA’s rule rollback makes sense from a demographic and economic point of view, but what about safety? Individuals with insulin-treated diabetes can be prone to adverse health effects, including blurry or double vision, fatigue, weakness, unclear thinking, fainting, seizure and coma.
However, the FMCSA assures its action maintains “a high level of safety” while removing “major administrative and financial burdens for diabetic drivers.”