Bill lowers barrier for diabetic drivers

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The Highway Reauthorization Act that awaits President Bush’s signature replaces a provision in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s 2003 Diabetes Exemption Program barring insulin-treated diabetics from truck driving.

The act allows insulin-using diabetics to be assessed medically on a case-by-case basis.

“Any time a discrimination barrier is torn down – as this bill will do for commercial driving – it will have a profound effect,” said Lawrence Smith, chair of the American Diabetes Association.

The exemption program was announced in 2003. The FMCSA planned to use it to end the 33-year-old blanket ban on insulin users operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. The ban was to be replaced with a case-by-case assessment that includes more than 50 safety provisions.

The program included a rule that required applicants to have commercial vehicle driving experience, while using insulin, for the three years before applying for an exemption. Because of the prior ban, no interstate driver could fulfill the three-year requirement. However, 27 states grant waivers for intrastate driving, which is legal under federal law, and 11 grant limited waivers.

The act, passed last week by the House and Senate, is expected to be signed into law this week by Bush.

The ADA noted that Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) and Peter DeFazio (D.-Ore.) worked to alter the program.

Further information is available by calling ADA at 800-342-2383 or going to www.diabetes.org.