[Federal Register Volume 59, Number 221 (Thursday, November 17, 1994)]
[Unknown Section]
[Page 0]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 94-28380]

[[Page Unknown]]

[Federal Register: November 17, 1994]



Federal Highway Administration

49 CFR Part 391

[FHWA Docket No. MC-91-1]


Qualification of Drivers; Vision Deficiencies; Waivers

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of Final Determination and change in research plan.


SUMMARY: The FHWA announces its Final Determination which validates 
waivers issued to certain drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMV) 
from the date of this notice until March 31, 1996. This action is 
directed solely at those drivers who had been granted temporary waivers 
to participate in the previously authorized vision waiver study, who 
numbered 2,399 as of November 5, 1994. This action follows, and is 
consistent with, the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. 
Circuit in the case captioned Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety v. 
Federal Highway Administration, 28 F.3d 1288, D.C. Cir. 1994, which 
vacated the rule authorizing the temporary waivers and remanded the 
matter to the agency for further action not inconsistent with the 
Court's ruling. This notice also announces a basic change in the 
purpose for which data on the waived drivers are being collected and 
the intention of the FHWA to develop criteria for the imposition of 
additional conditions for maintaining the waivers and to improve 
monitoring of the performance of the waived drivers to identify and 
exclude those drivers who do not meet these conditions.

DATES: This final determination is effective on November 8, 1994.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The FHWA has established a special 
telephone number to receive inquiries regarding this notice. The number 
is 1-800-832-5660. Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., e.t., 
Monday through Friday, except legal Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Section 206(f) of the Motor Carrier Safety 
Act of 1984, (MCSA) Pub. L. No. 98-554, 98 Stat. 2832 (codified at 49 
U.S.C. 31136(e), formerly 49 U.S.C. app. 2505(f)), allows the Secretary 
of Transportation to grant waivers from the Federal Motor Carrier 
Safety Regulations only after a determination that such waivers are not 
contrary to the public interest and are consistent with the safe 
operation of CMVs. Historically, except for a limb-handicap waiver 
program established in 1979 (49 CFR 391.49), the agency granted no 
individual waivers to drivers who did not meet the physical 
qualification requirements set forth at 49 CFR 391.41.

Vision Waiver Study

    The FHWA announced its vision waiver study in a Notice of Intent to 
accept applications for waivers on March 25, 1992, (57 FR 10295). This 
vision waiver study was initiated as part of an overall regulatory 
review of the medical qualification standards applicable to interstate 
CMV drivers. For a complete description of the waiver program, see the 
FHWA's October 6, 1994, Notice of Determination; request for comments, 
at 59 FR 50887.

Court Decision

    The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (hereinafter Advocates or 
AHAS) filed suit in the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. 
Circuit, requesting a review of the FHWA's notice of final disposition 
granting waivers to individuals who otherwise did not meet the Federal 
vision standard required for the qualification of CMV drivers in 
interstate commerce. The Court found that the FHWA's notices of the 
program did provide for meaningful opportunity for comment and that the 
comments received were given due consideration. The Court also held 
that the FHWA's approach, given the conflicting policy demands, was 
reasonable, and therefore not arbitrary and capricious. The Court 
observed, however, that the FHWA ``initiated a program to issue 
temporary waivers to visually impaired drivers in order to procure the 
hard evidence needed to determine the effect of visual deficiencies on 
safety. Yet, before it may grant a waiver, the Safety Act required the 
agency to determine that such waiver * * * is consistent with the safe 
operation of commercial motor vehicles.'' 28 F.3d at 1294. The Court 
found that the agency's ``determination that the waiver program will 
not adversely affect the safe operation of CMVs is devoid of empirical 
support in the record,'' 28 F.3d at 1294, and that ``the FHWA has 
failed to meet the exacting requirements of section 2505(f) [now 49 
U.S.C. 31136(e)].'' 28 F.3d at 1294. Consequently, the Court concluded 
that the FHWA's adoption of the waiver program was contrary to law, and 
vacated and remanded the rule to the agency.

Proceedings after the Court Decision

    On October 6, 1994, the FHWA published a Notice of Determination, 
request for comments in the Federal Register (59 FR 50887), extending 
the validity of the vision waivers for a thirty-day period. The Notice 
also provided for a 15-day comment period to consider whether the 
agency had sufficient empirical evidence to allow the waiver program to 
continue until March 31, 1996. On the same day, the Advocates filed an 
emergency motion requesting that the Court issue and enforce a mandate 
in this case that would, in effect, halt the waiver program. The Court 
issued a mandate on October 21, 1994. That mandate simply restated that 
the rule authorizing the vision waivers is vacated and remanded the 
case to the agency. On October 24, 1994, the Court denied the 
Advocates' emergency motion.


    The FHWA received 19 comments to the docket in response to the 
October 6 Notice of Determination. Fourteen commenters favored 
continuing the vision waiver program, while five commenters asserted 
that the program should be discontinued. Commenters in favor of 
continuing the program include the National Private Truck Council, the 
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Association for 
the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, the Tennessee Public Service 
Commission, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), 
John Murphy (a driver participating in the waiver program), Thomas 
Breth and James Strickland (drivers not participating in the waiver 
program), Altim, Inc., Mixson Oil Company, the State of Indiana 
Department of Motor Vehicles, Daily Express, Inc., and the American 
Optometric Association.
    Commenters urging the agency to discontinue the vision waivers are 
the Advocates (two separate comments), the Insurance Institute for 
Highway Safety (IIHS), the American Movers Conference, the American 
Trucking Association (ATA), and Dr. Arthur M. Keeney, Dean Emeritus, 
University of Louisville. Their comments addressed the study design, 
the lack of a control group, the use of interim data, and other factors 
which, they contend, require the study's termination, or at a minimum, 
a restructuring of the method for conducting research.
    These comments are more fully discussed below.

Discussion of the Comments

    A. In favor:
    The State of Indiana Department of Motor Vehicles emphasizes the 
importance of the vision waiver as a tool to accurately assess the 
vision standards for commercial drivers, specifically addressing the 
condition known as amblyopia, or ``lazy eye.'' The State acknowledges 
that persons with less than perfect vision often develop scanning 
techniques to compensate for their disability, and that such techniques 
may actually increase their awareness of traffic and other conditions. 
The Tennessee Public Service Commission commented that it has 
grandfathered vision impaired CMV drivers and found no increase in 
incidents or accidents as a result.
    OOIDA, a national trade association representing the interests of a 
large number of independent owner-operators at both the Federal and 
State level, urged the FHWA to revalidate the waivers of the affected 
drivers because delay and uncertainty cause them significant harm. 
OOIDA believes that the FHWA's proposal ``strikes a careful balance 
between safety * * * and the federal policies underlying the Americans 
with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.''
    The American Optometric Association (AOA) supports the FHWA effort 
to study the performance of visually impaired drivers. The AOA believes 
``it is virtually impossible to unequivocally delineate a visual 
standard,'' and therefore, contends that a waiver system is needed.
    Daily Express, Inc., Mixson Oil Company, Inc. and Altim, Inc. offer 
the performance of their employees with waivers as examples of the 
ability of drivers to compensate for their disability and remain safe 
operators of CMVs. These companies express concern over replacing 
waived drivers with known safety records with other drivers whose 
safety record is not of the same high caliber.
    The National Private Truck Council (NPTC) also expressed support 
for the continuation of the vision waivers. The NPTC stresses the need 
for the type of data being collected from the waived drivers, as no 
such information currently exists. The NPTC believes that the FHWA's 
qualifying conditions for drivers, as well as the post-waiver 
conditions, ensure that those drivers holding waivers are safe 
operators of CMVs. The Association for the Advancement of Automotive 
Medicine also expresses the need for the data being gathered, although 
it has some reservations regarding the agency's study methodology.
    Individual drivers Thomas Breth, James Strickland and John M. 
Murphy also commented favorably to the October 6 notice. The latter 
commented on his own behalf and on behalf of a freightline company he 
owns and operates with his brothers. Mr. Breth, who petitioned the U.S. 
Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit because he was excluded from 
the vision waiver study because he did not timely file, submitted 
extensive records relating to that litigation. Although he supports the 
waivers, he opposes limiting them to those drivers originally granted 
the waivers under the determination that was invalidated by the D.C. 
Circuit in AHAS, supra.
    The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers supports the 
30-day extension of the waivers, but does not comment on the extension 
of the waivers through March 31, 1996.
    B. In opposition:
    The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety accurately portrays the 
FHWA's premise for its ``consistent with safety'' determination as 
being that drivers with relatively clean driving records are at a lower 
risk for future accidents and that this is borne out in the crash 
experience of drivers in the waiver group as compared with the general 
commercial driver population. It concedes that the studies cited by the 
FHWA and other studies1 referred to in the IIHS comments 
``(r)epeatedly * * * have shown that prior citations and crashes can be 
used as predictors of future crash risk (citations omitted),'' and 
acknowledges that such research ``amply justifies driver control 
policies based on driver records, such as point systems, suspensions, 
and revocations.''

    \1\Gebers and Peck, 1994, An Inventory of California Driver 
Accident Risk Factors. Sacramento, CA: California Dept. of Motor 
Vehicles, ``the California study''; Gebers and Peck, 1987, Basic 
California Traffic Conviction and Accident Record Facts. Sacramento, 
CA, California Dept. of Motor Vehicles; Lund, 1984, Driver Records 
and Crash Prediction, Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for Highway 
Safety; California Department of Motor Vehicles, 1981, California 
Driver Fact Book, Sacramento, CA: Dept. of Motor Vehicles; IIHS, 
1988, Drivers' Crash, Violations Records Predict Future Crash 
Involvement, Advisory No. 6, Arlington, VA: Insurance Institute for 
Highway Safety.

    The IIHS, however, goes on to contend that these justifications are 
specious. It cites several studies which show that many drivers with 
clean driving records are involved in accidents, and that many drivers 
with poor driving records over a three-year period experience accident-
free periods of equal length. A 1994 California report is cited which 
``did find that crash risk increases as a function of the number of 
crashes and citations on a drivers prior record. Of the two, prior 
citations is a slightly better indicator of subsequent crash risk, but 
subsequent crash risk can be more accurately predicted from a 
combination of prior crash and prior citation information than from 
either alone.'' Significantly, it is this combination that the FHWA 
relied upon to reach its ``consistent with safety'' determination. The 
IIHS contends that none of the findings in the California report 
support the proposition that ``the absence of citations or crashes can 
be used to predict a crash-free future.''
    It is apparent from its comments that the IIHS believes that the 
FHWA, in order to reach a ``consistent with safety'' determination, was 
bound to predict with some certainty that the waived drivers would be 
accident-free. The FHWA rejects this contention. The FHWA's 
determination is based on a reasonable expectation, supported by the 
studies cited both in the October 6 notice and in the IIHS comments, 
that the waived drivers with relatively clean driving records, as a 
group, would present less of a risk to public safety than a 
representative group of drivers, meeting existing standards, to be used 
in place of the waived drivers.
    The IIHS also faults the FHWA for ignoring the data gathered to 
date on fatal crash involvement of the waived group. Because of 
reporting errors by the drivers, which were detected and corrected 
through the FHWA back-up monitoring systems, much of the information on 
fatal accident involvement was not available by the time ``The Third 
Interim Monitoring Report on the Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles 
Who Receive Vision Waivers'' was completed on June 27, 1994. That 
report analyzes data collected from July, 1992, through February, 1994. 
The Fourth Interim Monitoring Report, which has been placed in the 
docket, includes both the fatal and non-fatal accident rates resulting 
from all data accumulated through June 30, 1994. The fatal accident 
rate for the waived group of drivers is indeed slightly higher than the 
general truck driving population. However, in none of the fatal 
accidents was the waived driver issued a citation or found by the 
reporting police officer to have been at fault.
    Finally, the IIHS is critical of the study methodology and faults 
the FHWA for its failure to use a control group as originally planned. 
The FHWA will more fully address this in the methodology to be 
developed to establish parameters for a performance-based vision 
    The American Trucking Associations, Inc., a national trade 
association of the trucking industry, also commented in opposition to 
the FHWA proposal. The ATA had participated in the D.C. Circuit case, 
AHAS v. FHWA, supra., by filing an amicus curiae brief in support of 
the petitioner's challenge to the waiver study. The ATA contends that 
the decision of the Court of Appeals in AHAS was broad enough to 
preclude the FHWA's present proposal. The FHWA disagrees for the 
reasons stated herein and in its filings with the D.C. Circuit in 
opposition to the AHAS motion for issuance and enforcement of a 
mandate, which the court dismissed. The filings in that matter are 
recorded in the docket.
    The ATA suggests that pooling of the waived drivers may mask poor 
performance by individual members of the pool, and that comparisons 
with general populations are faulty because the waived group contains 
only experienced drivers. The ATA then significantly concedes that 
``(a) pool of experienced drivers will also appear to be safer than the 
national pool which includes new drivers and drivers with various 
driving experience.'' That is precisely the point. The FHWA's 
``consistent with safety'' determination is based on the premise. The 
waived drivers had all been operating commercial motor vehicles on the 
highways when the waivers were issued to them. If they were required to 
stop driving they would have to be replaced by drivers drawn from the 
general population of truck drivers or new drivers. This is 
particularly true in this era of driver shortages which the ATA has 
publicly and repeatedly proclaimed. (See, e.g., Transport Topics, No. 
3050, January 17, 1994, p. 12; and No. 3083, September 5, 1994, p. 42 
and p. 49.)
    The ATA also faults the study design because it will never be 
probative of ``the ability of visually impaired drivers, in general, to 
operate CMVs safely.'' The ATA states that this is because ``the study 
is limited to the experiences of these apparently better-than-average 
drivers.'' Once again, the ATA makes the FHWA's point. The ``consistent 
with safety'' determination relates to the issuance of the waivers, and 
not to the design or conclusions to be drawn from the study. The FHWA 
recognizes that the study as presently fashioned has some problems, 
which the FHWA is taking steps to correct. The FHWA also recognizes 
that its group of waived drivers may include some subpar performers who 
individually may present an unacceptable risk to safety. The FHWA is 
taking steps to identify and exclude such drivers, while at the same 
time maintaining the integrity of the overall waiver program.
    Finally, the ATA contends that the FHWA proposal is an attempt to 
give retroactive effect to its previous waiver rule, and that this is 
violative of the Administrative Procedure Act, citing Georgetown 
University Hosp. v. Bowen, 821 F.2d 750 (D.C. Cir. 1987), aff'd., 488 
U.S. 204 (1988). The Georgetown case involved a rule issued by the 
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that affected the formula 
under which hospitals were to be reimbursed for the provision of 
certain health services. After the rule was invalidated because it was 
issued without opportunity for public comment, the HHS issued a new 
rule retroactive to an earlier date. On the basis of this new rule, the 
HHS then sought reimbursement from the hospitals for payments made 
before the date of the new rule which were greater than would be 
allowable under the new formula.
    The FHWA's decision allowing waived drivers to operate in 
interstate commerce until March 31, 1996, has no retroactive effect 
whatsoever. It speaks only prospectively. On September 30, the FHWA 
validated the waivers for a 30-day period and requested comments.
    Moreover, the rule in this instance was not vacated for procedural 
error, as it was in the Georgetown case. In this instance, the rule was 
vacated after the court determined that the agency did not have the 
necessary empirical evidence in the record to support its assertion 
that the waivers were consistent with the safe operation of CMVs. The 
Notice published on October 6 provided the necessary empirical evidence 
for the future effect of the waivers, including data on the driving 
performance of the waived group of drivers as a whole, which clearly 
indicates that allowing this group to continue operating in interstate 
commerce is consistent with the safe operation of CMVs. (See 59 FR 
50887 at 50889, 50890, October 6, 1994). In providing the necessary 
empirical evidence, the agency cured the defect and now validates the 
waivers through March 31, 1996. Consequently, this action is entirely 
consistent with the APA.
    The comments of the American Movers Conference merely voice its 
support for the position taken by the ATA.
    Arthur H. Keeney, M.D., D.Sc., a Distinguished Professor of 
Ophthalmology and Dean Emeritus of the University of Louisville 
Department of Ophthalmology urged the FHWA to hold to its previously 
established physiologic standards without further reduction. Dr. Keeney 
suggested that the FHWA might grandfather the remaining waived drivers 
into the system as a means of proceeding away from the agency's current 
course, but recommended against enrolling any more ``monocular blind or 
``visually deficient drivers' who may be interpreted as otherwise 
qualified to meet occupational requirements.'' Dr. Keeney also 
submitted a recently prepared but thus far unpublished paper entitled 
``The Monocular Quandary'' which includes an extensive bibliography. 
The paper supports the current standard and explores operational 
problems, particularly associated with individuals with no vision in 
one eye. The FHWA believes the comments and the research paper of Dr. 
Keeney will be useful in its pursuit of performance-based vision 
    Strong opposition to the FHWA proposal was also received from the 
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), the petitioner in the 
D.C. Circuit case referred to throughout this notice. The AHAS reargues 
its position in the court proceeding both before and after judgment and 
urges a broader interpretation of the court's decision.
    The Advocates also believe that the waived drivers could have been 
``grandfathered'' into a qualified status, and, indeed, that such an 
alternative is still available to the FHWA. It is unclear how the 
effect of this approach would differ in any significant degree from 
that of the route chosen by the FHWA. The Advocates contend that the 
FHWA misused the data from the vision waiver study, ignoring the advice 
of its own experts in the process. We believe the AHAS is confusing the 
basis for a ``consistent with safety'' determination to justify the 
issuance of the waivers in order to conduct the study with prejudging 
the outcome of the study. As mentioned above, the FHWA concedes that 
the study, as currently designed, will not produce, by itself, 
sufficient evidence upon which to develop a new vision standard, and 
the FHWA has never claimed that the study was intended to create a 
standard, per se, for issuing waivers.
    Finally, the AHAS criticized the FHWA for not being candid with the 
data it has obtained during the course of the vision waiver study. It 
claims that the FHWA has underreported fatalities. The FHWA has made 
every attempt to be forthcoming regarding the data and accident 
information compiled. In fact, the State police and accident reports 
referred to in comments by the Advocates were provided promptly and 
directly to the AHAS by the agency. This issue, however, has convinced 
the agency to take steps to improve its monitoring systems.
    The Fourth Interim Report has been completed by the contractor and 
covers cumulative activities and mileage through June 30, 1994. Since 
the June 30 date, another waived driver has been involved in a fatal 
accident. As of June 30, the fatal accident rate for waived drivers is 
0.034 per million vehicle miles travelled (VMT) as compared to the 
national rate computed from GES data of 0.026. The total accident rate 
for drivers in the waived group is 1.636 per million VMT compared with 
the rate of 2.531 per million VMT computed from GES data. Given the 
small number of fatal accidents that have occurred, these rates can 
represent only approximate estimates of what may actually be expected 
to occur on the highways. Therefore, conclusions drawn solely from them 
must be cautiously interpreted.
    Additionally, the fatal accidents that have occurred were not 
necessarily related to the drivers' vision impairments. The most recent 
fatality, which was promptly reported by the waived driver involved, 
occurred when an automobile collided with the rear end of the truck 
operated by the waived driver. The police accident report indicated 
there was no fault on the part of the truck driver. A review of the 
police accident reports of the previous 6 fatal accidents in which 
waived drivers were involved also reveals that none of the waived 
drivers was found to be at fault by the reporting police officer.

Status of the Waived Drivers

    The FHWA has reviewed all the comments carefully, conferred with 
its contractor administering the agency's vision waiver program and 
conducted peer reviews regarding the studies and other evidence 
submitted by the commenters. The FHWA believes that continuing to allow 
those drivers operating commercial motor vehicles in interstate 
commerce while holding Federal vision waivers is consistent with the 
two-pronged test set forth in the Motor Carrier Safety Act of 1984 (49 
U.S.C. 31136(e) (1994)).
    As discussed above, even the comments opposing the vision waivers 
did not refute the premise upon which the ``consistent with safety'' 
determination articulated in the October 6 notice was based. The 
studies referred to by the FHWA to support the proposition that a group 
of experienced drivers with clean driving records over a 3-year period 
will present less of a risk than a group of drivers selected from the 
general truck driving population to replace them over a similar 3-year 
period were not contradicted. In fact, studies referred to by some of 
the commenters opposing the vision waivers bolstered this position. The 
opposing commenters did, however, point out some weaknesses in 
monitoring the performance of the waived drivers which can be corrected 
to assure the continued safety of these drivers.
    To correct these and assure the continued safety of the drivers, 
the FHWA will, within the next 60 days, undertake a close review of the 
data gathered thus far and develop additional criteria which the waived 
drivers will be required to meet as conditions of retaining the waiver. 
These conditions will be communicated directly to the waived drivers. 
In those 60 days, the FHWA will also improve its monitoring systems to 
enable the agency to more promptly identify subpar performers among the 
waived group to ensure that safety is maintained.


    The FHWA has determined that the issuance of waivers to the 2,399 
drivers remaining in the study group is consistent with the public 
interest and the safe operation of commercial motor vehicles. This 
determination is based on studies referred to herein and data gathered 
during the course of the last two years which support the proposition 
that a group of experienced drivers of commercial motor vehicles with 
clean driving records, including both accident and citation records 
over the previous three years, will present a lower risk to safety over 
the following 3 years than a group of the same size comprised of 
drivers representing the general truck driving population, including 
new drivers, over the same 3-year period. The statistics that have been 
gathered from the waived drivers to date indicate that this class of 
drivers has performed and continues to perform more safely than those 
drivers in the general population of commercial drivers.
    The waivers were issued to these drivers following an individual 
determination of each driver's capability to operate a commercial motor 
vehicle (CMV) safely. This individual determination consisted of a 
review of each individual's vital statistics, employment history, 
status of driving privilege as recorded on the licensing State's MVR 
and the license status for the past three years, and expert medical 
opinion by an ophthalmologist or optometrist attesting to the visual 
acuity of each driver and its effect on his or her ability to perform 
the driving task safely. Once a driver was granted a waiver, he or she 
was, and is, required to submit monthly driving reports and be examined 
annually by an ophthalmologist or optometrist and submit the results of 
that examination to the FHWA. Failure to report timely as required will 
result in the initiation of a process to revoke the waiver. Moreover, 
the FHWA's contractor periodically verifies the waived drivers reported 
accidents and citations through each driver's State motor vehicle 
record (MVR). Medical reports are also verified. The drivers holding 
waivers from the Federal vision standards, as is true of all drivers in 
the general population, are not immune from State or Federal 
enforcement or licensing sanctions by virtue of their participation in 
the waiver study, and are subject to the penalty provisions of the 
commercial drivers' license regulations (49 CFR Part 383), State and 
local licensing sanctions, as well as the penalty provisions set forth 
as conditions of the waiver.
    In addition, the FHWA believes that the continued employment of 
individuals with proven safe driving records is in the public interest. 
The comments to the docket reflect several instances where companies 
employing waived drivers rely heavily upon their waived drivers because 
these drivers are consistently safe operators of CMVs. Permitting 
waived drivers to continue operating in interstate commerce is also 
consistent with the public interest policy of employing persons with 
disabilities, which is evidenced in both the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 
and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Status of the Study

    The agency believes that the observations made by the Advocates, 
the ATA, the IIHS and others regarding flaws in the current research 
method have merit. In addition, several experts reviewed the studies 
and data upon which the FHWA based its ``consistent with safety'' 
determination and were unanimous in finding (1) the waived drivers as a 
group would be expected to perform as well as or better than a group of 
equal size drawn at random from the general truck driving population 
because of the preselection criteria and conditions; and (2) the data 
developed by the study will never answer the question as to what the 
standards should be. Consequently, the FHWA has decided to develop and 
implement, with the input of these commenters and others, a new 
research method that will address the concerns of these commenters.
    The FHWA will undertake comprehensive research to develop 
parameters for performance-based visual standards for all commercial 
drivers. The agency anticipates that any new vision standards will 
consider at least three critical aspects of visual performance: static 
acuity, dynamic acuity, and useful field of view. The vision standard 
found at 49 CFR Sec. 391.41(b)(10) will remain in effect until the 
completion of this research and the implementation of any new standard. 
The agency's ultimate goal is to adopt driver physical qualification 
standards that are performance-based; that is, they will reflect the 
actual physical requirements that fosters safe operation of commercial 
    Development of standards will begin with an analysis of the 
existing body of knowledge, including knowledge gained from this 
project when completed, and from analogous applications of visual 
standards in other environments (e.g., Department of Defense, Federal 
Aviation Administration, and National Aeronautical and Space 
Administration). The final standards will be developed in careful 
consideration of the practical constraints of driver vision testing, 
cost, examiner training, testing time, and requirements for development 
of new testing equipment, all of which will be balanced against 
projected safety improvements.
    The FHWA will proceed within the following framework:
     FHWA will develop a sound methodology, based on accepted 
experimental and statistical practices, for developing visual 
     The development process will include consideration of the 
collected accident experience of commercial vehicle operators, 
including the drivers holding vision waivers.
     Before a final method and design for developing standards 
is determined, FHWA will announce its proposed method and design for 
discussion at a public meeting to be held in the Spring of 1995. The 
proposed method will be open to public scrutiny. The final methodology 
will be published in the Federal Register.
     The FHWA will announce the results of the study, the 
proposed standards and a proposed plan for implementing the standards 
at the completion of this study.

Public Hearing on Vision Standard and Waiver Program

    As mentioned earlier, the FHWA intends to announce its proposed 
revisions to the research method at a public hearing to be held in 
Spring 1995. The FHWA is eager to gain a broader perspective of the 
public's viewpoint concerning other studies, data and experiences which 
will enhance the agency's knowledge on the subject of a performance-
based vision standard. The FHWA is also interested in sharing its data 
with other researchers and agencies which may undertake useful analyses 
and initiate studies leading to new approaches in establishing future 
physical qualification standards, standards that are both necessary and 
valid to increasing opportunities in the truck-driving profession while 
ensuring that society's high expectations of CMV safety are realized. 
Notice of the hearing will be published in the Federal Register and 
will contain further questions to which the agency seeks responses, as 
well as directions on how to obtain information about the data 
collected during the vision waiver study.


    Based upon the comments to the docket and the empirical evidence 
gathered to date, the FHWA will allow those drivers currently holding 
waivers from the Federal vision standard to continue to operate in 
interstate commerce until March 31, 1996. This permission is 
conditioned upon each driver's continued compliance with the reporting 
requirements outlined in the Federal Register on July 16, 1992 (57 FR 
31458) and again on October 6, 1994 (59 FR 50887) and such further 
conditions and monitoring as may be imposed by the FHWA in the interest 
of safety. Waived drivers also remain subject to State or Federal 
enforcement or licensing sanctions. Additionally, the FHWA will 
concurrently undertake research to develop comprehensive, performance-
based visual standards for all commercial drivers. This proposed 
analysis and research method will be presented at a public hearing to 
be held in Spring 1995, and the public will be invited to comment on 
the research method. And finally, the FHWA, within the next 60 days, 
will complete a review of the performance data on the waived drivers to 
develop criteria which will form the basis for further conditions which 
will be imposed directly on the waiver holders and will further reduce 
the safety risks to these drivers and highway users.

    Issued on: November 9, 1994.
Rodney E. Slater,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-28380 Filed 11-14-94; 12:40 pm]