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May 5, 2015 2:00 PM, EDT

FMCSA Mulling Over Whether Exemption Process Is Necessary for Diabetic Drivers

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg News

The Federal Motor Carriers Administration has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking under which truck drivers with controlled diabetes would no longer have to apply for medical exemptions.

Currently, drivers with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus must obtain an FMCSA exemption that must be renewed every two years.

Under the proposed rulemaking, they would only have to be examined annually by a medical examiner listed in the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners.

The examiner would have to receive confirmation from the driver’s treating clinician that the driver has had an annual exam and that the diabetes is “stable and well-controlled,” said the FMCSA notice published May 4 in the Federal Register.

FMCSA said that such a new regulatory provision “creates a clearer, equally effective and more consistent framework” than a medical exemption program.

The agency also said its own evidence reports, as well as studies from the American Diabetes Association and the Medical Review Board “indicate that drivers with ITDM are as safe as other drivers when their condition is well-controlled.”

The agency said it will accept comments on the proposed rulemaking until July 6.

American Trucking Associations is expected to file comments and to “applaud” FMCSA’s proposed rulemaking, ATA Director of Safety Sean Garney said.

“It will make life easier for drivers with insulin treated diabetes,” he said.

In addition, ATA has been questioning the need for the exemption process for such conditions as diabetes and vision problems given that there is a medical certification process in place that contains standards for drivers who have such afflictions.

Since January 2014, FMCSA has granted more than 1,000 diabetes exemptions for drivers with diabetes, Garney said.

“We’re not providing any commentary on whether or not diabetics can drive safely,” he said. “What we’re saying is, if you decide something, stick with it. Otherwise, let’s revisit this conversation, and that’s what they’re doing, so, hurrah for them.”