Diabetes waiver comment period closes Thursday

| 6/9/2006

Recent changes to the federal regs have paved the way for insulin-dependent truckers to actually have a chance at returning to interstate driving.

Thanks to highway funding legislation approved in 2005, the nearly impossible three-year driving requirement was eliminated and minimum periods proving insulin-control hit the scene, paving the way for many insulin-dependent truckers to have a shot at driving again.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is now toying with the idea of eliminating the need to apply for a waiver at all – and the comment period is closing soon.

An “advance notice of proposed rulemaking” and request for comments was published in the Federal Register in March. In the notice, agency officials stated they are considering whether to amend the medical qualifications standards to eliminate waiver requirements for insulin-dependent diabetics.

“Upon completion of this rulemaking, drivers with (insulin-treated diabetes mellitus) might not be required to apply for exemptions from the current rule prohibiting such drivers from operating in interstate commerce,” the notice stated.

Currently, insulin-dependent truckers must apply for and receive an exemption. This past November, the requirements for the exemption were loosened somewhat thanks to the current highway funding legislation.

Truckers are no longer required to have three years of driving experience while on insulin and are only required to prove control of their diabetes for a designated period of time.

A request in the current notice on the Federal Register asks those groups and individuals who want to comment to address 12 specific questions.

The following is a summary of the questions relevant to truckers FMCSA officials would like addressed in the comments:

  1. What changes to the current regulation (49 CFR 391.41) should FMCSA officials consider to enable insulin-dependent diabetics without a waiver?
  2. How should FMCSA officials make sure doctors apply the medical standard consistently and appropriately to make sure truckers are physically able to operate safely and that driving a truck is not harmful to their health?
  3. Comments on the elimination of the three-year driving requirement and minimum period of control requirement are also requested.
  4. Should the agency allow doctors to assume responsibility for their determination that individual truckers can manage their condition or should the doctor be required to certify the trucker meets the revised standard?
  5. Should the medical certificate issued by the medical examiner also have certification from the treating physician in addition to the medical examiner?
  6. What should be the standard maximum period for valid medical certificates for insulin-dependent diabetics?
  7. What changes in health should be reported – for example hypoglycemia-induced incidents? What changes in crash data should be reported? Who should be responsible for these reports and who should the reports be submitted to?
  8. Should new and emerging treatments for diabetes be considered in reviewing and revising the current standard? How would new treatments affect implementation of a new standard?
  9. Are there attributes to being a trucker that make if particularly difficult to manage their condition? Are any of these attributes specific to particular segments of the industry?

The additional questions posed in the notice asked if states would adopt uniform rules regarding diabetics and requested studies and data on insulin-dependent truckers.

Where to send comments: The comment deadline is Thursday, June 15. Comments do not have to be signed and can be submitted anonymously.

All submissions must include the agency name and docket number, FMCSA-2005-23151. To submit your completed comments, you can:

  • On the Internet, visit dms.dot.gov/submit/dspSubmission.cfm and type in the docket number and follow instructions for submitting comments online;
  • Fax them to: (202) 493-2251; or
  • Mail to:
Docket Management Facility
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh St. SW
Nassif Building Room PL-401
Washington, DC 20590-0001

– By Jami Jones, senior editor