FMCSA to resume diabetes program

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After three decades of effort, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is again trying to determine if diabetics who are treated with insulin should be allowed to operate trucks in interstate commerce.

The agency issued a Federal Register notice on July 31 seeking public comment on whether it should conduct a pilot program granting renewable two-year exemptions to insulin-treated diabetic drivers to determine whether the drivers can perform as safely as other truck drivers on the road. If the program succeeds, the agency might be convinced to lift the long-standing ban on insulin-treated diabetics hauling freight between states.

The decision to try the pilot program follows more than two years of intensive, congressionally mandated study by the agency. In a report to Congress in August 2000, FMCSA said that all recent studies show that diabetic drivers have a safety level that is the same or better than a comparison group of non-diabetic truck drivers.

At the same time, a panel of medical experts assembled by FMCSA found that a program to allow the diabetics to drive, given recent advances in the treatment of diabetics, would be feasible.

The new program would follow an earlier unsuccessful waiver program that ran from 1993 to 1996 before a federal court decision terminated it.

Significant safeguards
Under the proposed new program, a diabetic could receive a two-year renewable exemption if he has been operating a CMV for three years, has had a nearly flawless driving record and has successfully controlled his condition while driving both trucks and personal vehicles.

The applicant could have no license suspensions or revocations, no accidents in which he received a traffic ticket or was at fault, no convictions that would disqualify him from driving, and not more than one serious traffic violation.

In addition, he could not have had more than one hypoglycemic reaction in the past five years resulting in seizure or blackout, requiring the aid of another person, or resulting in impaired cognitive function without warning. For the latest year, his condition would have had to be stable.

The applicant would have to submit a complete medical record from a board-certified or eligible endocrinologist based on a thorough examination attesting that the applicant can properly monitor and manage his diabetes.

A participant in the pilot would have to check his glucose level before driving and every two to four hours. He would have to have adequate medical supplies and food to keep his glucose within acceptable levels and stop driving if the glucose level gets too high. A participant would also have to undergo annual medical exams and keep daily records of glucose levels.

FMCSA is seeking comments until Oct. 1 on the program. For a copy of the notice, visit http://dms.dot.gov/search and search Docket No. 9800.