Regulatory hurdle for diabetic truckers may be thing of the past

| 7/27/2011

Truckers who properly manage their insulin-dependent diabetes have long faced regulatory hurdles if they wanted to continue driving. But that could all be changing.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is planning to proceed on a rulemaking that would remove the requirement that truckers with insulin-dependent diabetes apply for a waiver to continue driving.

The change is officially in FMCSA’s regulatory plan to begin the rulemaking process in April 2012. The plan is not a full-blown commitment by the agency, but rather general prioritization of future regulatory changes.

For diabetic truckers, this is the beginning of a light at the end of the tunnel.

It wasn’t until 2003 that FMCSA even made it remotely possible for diabetic truckers to medically qualify to drive interstate. Up until that point, diabetics were simply prohibited from interstate commerce.

In 2003, the agency implemented an exemption for drivers who had three years of demonstrated control of their diabetes. The catch: they also had to be driving while demonstrating the control.

That restriction meant that the only way you could qualify for the exemption was to drive intrastate – if your home state allowed it – for three years, while managing your diabetes.

In September 2005, three individual truckers finally landed those exemptions.

Interestingly, those exemptions were granted by the agency only days after the current highway bill was signed into law. That legislation contained a provision that mandates FMCSA get rid of the exemption requirement all together.

Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU, includes a provision that requires the change.

Section 4129 states that” no period of commercial driving while using insulin can be required for anyone applying for an exemption from the physical qualification standards.”

The only big thing diabetics will have to do is demonstrate “stable control” of their diabetes.

For newly diagnosed Type 1 diabetics, FMCSA cannot require the minimum period of insulin use to be longer than two months. For truckers with Type 2 diabetes who are converting to insulin use, the minimum period of insulin use cannot exceed one month, unless directed by the treating physician.

Section 4129 also prohibits insulin-treated diabetics from being held to a higher standard of physical qualification than anyone else applying to operate – or currently operating – a commercial motor vehicle.

Insulin-controlled diabetics, however, may find themselves facing “limited operating, monitoring and medical requirements” deemed medically necessary.

That bill was signed into law Aug. 10, 2005. The agency published an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking in March 2006. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association filed comments fully supporting the removal of the exemption requirement.

The rulemaking has languished in the background since the comment period closed in June 2006. The agency states that “lack of staffing” and “unanticipated issues requiring further analysis” delayed the notice of proposed rulemaking.