FMCSA clarifies rule on hearing-impaired drivers, OKs them to hold CDL

Updated Oct 24, 2014

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued clarification recently on its English language rule, saying it does not bar hearing-impaired truckers who communicate in English, but do not speak, from having a CDL.

Its Oct. 1 announcement marks a second victory for this population since last year, when the FMCSA granted 40 hearing-impaired drivers exemptions for the first time.

The regulatory guidance applies to hearing-impaired truckers who can sufficiently read and write English, but do not speak. Federal code stipulates CDL holders be able converse with the public and respond to official inquiries in English.

The National Association of the Deaf requested the clarification after several association members said state licensing agencies construed not speaking as failing the English language requirement.

Since 1970, CDL holders have been required to be able to hear a “forced whisper at not less than 5 feet in the better ear.” The rule was revised the following year to allow test takers use of a hearing aid.