James Eli Shiffer, the Star Tribune’s watchdog and data editor, digs into data and documents to uncover the news. Reach him at 612-673-4116, james.shiffer@startribune.com or follow him on Twitter at @jameselishiffer. Tell us what to investigate. Send your story tips to whistleblower@startribune.com.

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Keep one good eye on the road: 'Monocular' drivers seek exemptions

Posted by: James Eli Shiffer Updated: June 20, 2014 - 10:11 AM

Speak up if you think these drivers should not get behind the wheel of a truck. Federal law requires commercial interstate vehicle drivers to have two good eyes, but allows those with impairment in one of those eyes to apply for an exemption so they can drive a truck across state lines. It's one of those situations where public safety trumps medical privacy, so the vision impairments of 34 drivers have now become a matter of public record in the Federal Register. Four of those drivers in Thursday's register notice have Minnesota licenses. One of them, Kenneth Bos, has been blind in his left eye since 2004, but has driven tens of thousands of miles without a problem.

The register listing seeks "adverse comments" about these "monocular" drivers by July 21, and will otherwise issue the exemptions the next day, as part of its Federal Vision Exemption Program. From what I can gather, these exemptions are rarely if ever challenged.

Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed easing the requirements for vision exemptions by accepting commercial drivers with one year of intrastate experience, rather than three. Highway safety advocates, however, have urged caution, saying FMCSA has mischaracterized the safety study used to justify the change.

      

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