Visual function is a vital factor for a safe semi truck operation.
It can be challenging to prove to the government that one can handle a large vehicle with one eye or monocular vision.
Since driving with vision impairment is tricky, the US government imposes specific vision requirements for aspiring drivers.
In this article, let’s find out if the government favors a person with one eye and what the law says.
Here’s a short summary to whether You Can Drive a Semi Truck with One Eye:
In general, you can drive a semi truck with one eye as you have 20/40 vision in that eye. However, in order to drive a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce, drivers with monocular vision must apply for the FMCSA vision exemption.
Can you Drive a Semi Truck with One Eye?
Anyone can drive with one eye so long as the only working eye can still see the road. But if we are to observe the law, semi truck driver aspirants need to undergo stringent requirements to drive.
The grant of license is on a case-to-case basis, and the qualifications may vary from state to state.
Interestingly, the FMSCA has been consistently allowing one-eyed truck drivers on the road.
Early this year, 2021, the organization considered being more lenient on the vision requirements to enhance employment opportunities among truck drivers.
Can you Drive a Semi Truck for Personal Use with One Eye?
Whether for personal or commercial use, it’s pretty tricky to drive with one eye, but it’s possible.
Those who wish to get a driver’s license amidst the condition need to pass several driving and vision tests to obtain a permit to drive.
A person with one eye or monocular vision may be granted a conditional license to drive a semi truck. Some states may allow a person to drive with one eye but only within his state of residence.
To apply for a non-commercial driver’s license, applicants must present an eyesight certificate from their opthalmologist or optometrist to the DMV.
Can you Drive a Semi Truck for Commercial Use with One Eye?
Drivers with monocular vision can apply for the FMCA vision exemption if they want to drive commercial semi trucks.
The FMCSA exemption is the sole gateway to drive a commercial truck legally.
Most one-eyed truckers in the US are beneficiaries of the federal vision exemption program. This is the simplest and only route to be a semi truck driver with one eye throughout the US.
Currently, the US has nearly 3000 commercial one-eyed truck drivers.
However, the program’s biggest hurdle is the three-year intrastate driving with one eye or vision loss test.
Fortunately, the FMCSA has proposed eliminating this requirement and replacing it with a road test to demonstrate their ability to drive a commercial vehicle.
Can I Pass a DOT Physical with One Eye?
You will not pass the DOT physical test with one eye. This test will require your both “seeing” eyes to pass. Again, the rules are a lot stringent for semi truck drivers.
However, the good news is that you may be allowed to drive around the state where you live. In most states, the DMV grants an exemption.
If you wish for interstate driving, the only way possible is an exemption from the FMCSA.
Can you Still get a CDL to Drive a Semi if your One Eye is Bad?
If a bad eye means having a 20/40 vision for such an eye, you can still get a CDL. To get a CDL, one needs to pass a series of tests as prescribed by the FMCSA:
Senellen Test/Vision Acuity Test
A Senellen test is a test that requires a chart vision chart. An eye doctor conducts this, and it’s a standard test for those who wish to have prescription glasses.
To pass the test, you need at least 20/40 for each eye. As we know, the normal vision is 20/20. A person with 20/20 vision can see a text that is 20 feet away from him.
On the other hand, a person with 20/40 vision can read the exact text 40 feet away but with the same accuracy as the person with normal vision.
If the applicant fails to pass the Senellen test but wearing contact lenses or eyeglasses can correct his vision, he meets the visual acuity standard.
Field of Vision Test
The applicant should have at least a 70 degrees field of vision for each eye to drive commercial vehicles. This vision capability is required for a driver to view obstacles and other vehicles on the road.
If the applicant fails to meet the 70 or suffers from tunnel vision, he may not be issued a CLD.
To obtain the CDL, the applicant must know how to distinguish traffic colors. Failure to do so will not guarantee him a CDL license.
Simply put, a 20/40 vision is not a bad eye at all. If you think your eye condition will not pass all of these tests, you may not be issued a CDL.
However, failure to get a CLD doesn’t mean a change of profession. For those who fail to get a CDL, you can avail of an exemption from the FMCSA.
You can drive commercial trucks across the US with one eye and without the CDL with the exemption.
What Vision do you Need to have with One Eye?
As a general rule, the driver should have a minimum 20/40 requirement for each eye and at least 70 degrees field of vision. These requirements are known as the field of vision and visual acuity requirements.
If you cannot meet the requirements but can improve your eyesight through corrective lenses, a driver may be allowed to drive.
As said earlier, some states allow drivers with one eye. The law only requires the driver to have at least 20/40 vision for his one eye.
So far, the majority of the states don’t allow drivers with only one working eye. This is why a lot of truckers choose to avail the exemption program of the FMCSA.
What are the FMCSA Vision Requirements?
The present vision regulations only qualify drivers to drive once they meet the field of vision and vision acuity requirements.
Drivers are also required to recognize amber, red, and green lights. So those who are color blind may also not be permitted to drive a CMV.
Currently, drivers with one eye are prohibited from driving commercial vehicles in the US unless they obtain the FMCSA vision exemptions.
However, once the 2021 proposal of the FMCSA is approved, the lives of all one-eyed commercial driver aspirants will be change forever.
Under the proposal, one has to meet these two requirements:
1. Vision assessment to be conducted by an optometrist or opthalmologist.
2. The medical examiner or physician will then examine to determine if the applicant meets the vision and physical standards.
If the applicant passes the examinations, he will be issued a 12-month Medical Examiner’s Certificate, and he can now drive a CMV across the US.
The new proposal will replace the long process of the FMCSA vision exemption. It’s expected that more drivers with one eye will give more employment opportunities.
Are there any Special Applications you Need to Make?
Again, interstate driving with one eye is strictly prohibited. The only special application one can make is to apply for the Federal Vision Exemption Program.
Applying for the program is an extensive process. It requires a lot of backup documents, and it may take time to accomplish.
Some documents you need to present are a personal data sheet, employment history, medical exams, driving records for the past three years, and other supporting documents.
Once you have accomplished this paperwork, you may have to wait for the result for 180 days upon application.
You can find the complete list of the application requirements here.
Do all States Allow Driving a Semi Truck with One Eye?
Not all states will allow driving a semi truck with one eye. But in most states, one may be entitled to drive if the other eye is still in good condition for non-commercial purposes.
For one-eyed drivers, they can avail restricted license. Some restrictions under the permit include: to drive in daylight, within the state, and speed limits.
Some states will also require a 20/40 vision for a driver’s one eye. Some states impose slighter requirements for one eye vision, so check your state’s DMV laws.
If one aspires to be a commercial truck driver, this is where problems may arise. A commercial truck driver requires a professional license called the CDL. To obtain this, one needs both eyes to pass the test.
Is it Safe to Drive a Semi Truck with One Eye?
It is definitely safe to drive a semi truck with one eye. As long as you have one eye in good condition, there’s no problem at all.
After all, most driving accidents happen because of negligence. However, one must still observe extra precautions to ensure road safety.
Without your peripheral vision, driving on the road with many people and vehicles can be dangerous.
Take note that the loss of one vision is not the end of your career. As you can see, the laws are not harsh as you can still utilize the exemptions of the rules.
Besides that, the new proposal of the FMCSA gives hope to drivers with vision disabilities. If granted, drivers will enjoy equal employment opportunities in the freight transport industry.