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Qualification of Drivers; Application for Exemptions; Hearing

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Qualification of Drivers; Application for Exemptions; Hearing

Larry W. Minor
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
April 23, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 78 (Thursday, April 23, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 22766-22768]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-09459]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2013-0125]


Qualification of Drivers; Application for Exemptions; Hearing

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of final disposition.

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SUMMARY: FMCSA announces its decision to grant requests from 10 
individuals for exemptions from the Agency's physical qualifications 
standard concerning hearing for interstate drivers. The current 
regulation prohibits hearing impaired individuals from operating CMVs 
in interstate commerce. After notice and opportunity for public 
comment, the Agency concluded that granting exemptions for these 
drivers to operate property-carrying CMVs will provide a level of 
safety that is equivalent to or greater than the level of safety 
maintained without the exemptions. The exemptions are valid for a 2-
year period and may be renewed, and the exemptions preempt State laws 
and regulations.

DATES: The exemptions are effective April 23, 2015. The exemptions 
expire on April 24, 2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Charles A. Horan, III, Director, 
Office of Carrier, Driver and Vehicle Safety, (202) 366-4001, 
fmcsamedical@dot.gov, FMCSA, Department of Transportation, 1200 New 
Jersey Avenue SE., Room W64-224, Washington, DC 20590-0001. Office 
hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

A. Electronic Access

    You may see all the comments online through the Federal Document 
Management System (FDMS) at: www.regulations.gov.

[[Page 22767]]

    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments, go to www.regulations.gov, at any time or Room W12-140 on the 
ground level of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., 
Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays. The FDMS is available 24 hours each day, 365 
days each year. If you want acknowledgment that we received your 
comments, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or postcard 
or print the acknowledgement page that appears after submitting 
comments on-line.
    Privacy Act: In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits 
comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT 
posts these comments, without edit, including any personal information 
the commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the 
system records notice (DOT/ALL-14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at 
www.dot.gov/privacy.

B. Background

    Under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315, FMCSA may grant an exemption 
from the safety regulations for a 2-year period if it finds ``such 
exemption would likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to 
or greater than the level that would be achieved absent such 
exemption.'' The statute also allows the Agency to renew exemptions at 
the end of the 2-year period. The current provision (49 CFR 
391.41(b)(11)) of the FMCSRs concerning hearing state that a person is 
physically qualified to drive a CMV if that person:

    First perceives a forced whispered voice in the better ear at 
not less than 5 feet with or without the use of a hearing aid or, if 
tested by use of an audiometric device, does not have an average 
hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 
1,000 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid when the 
audiometric device is calibrated to American National Standard 
(formerly ASA Standard) Z24.5--1951.

This standard was adopted in 1970, with a revision in 1971 to allow 
drivers to be qualified under this standard while wearing a hearing 
aid, 35 FR 6458, 6463 (April 22, 1970) and 36 FR 12857 (July 3, 1971).
    FMCSA grants 10 individuals an exemption from Sec.  391.41(b)(11) 
concerning hearing to enable them to operate property-carrying CMVs in 
interstate commerce for a 2-year period. The Agency's decision on these 
exemption applications is based on the current medical literature and 
information and the ``Executive Summary on Hearing, Vestibular Function 
and Commercial Motor Driving Safety'' (the 2008 Evidence Report) 
presented to FMCSA on August 26, 2008. The evidence report reached two 
conclusions regarding the matter of hearing loss and CMV driver safety: 
(1) No studies that examined the relationship between hearing loss and 
crash risk exclusively among CMV drivers were identified; and (2) 
evidence from studies of the private driver license holder population 
does not support the contention that individuals with hearing 
impairment are at an increased risk for a crash. In addition, the 
Agency reviewed each applicant's driving record found in the CDLIS \1\ 
for CDL holders, and inspections recorded in MCMIS.\2\ For non-CDL 
holders, the Agency reviewed the driving records from the State 
licensing agency. Each applicant's record demonstrated a safe driving 
history. The Agency believes the drivers covered by the exemptions do 
not pose a risk to public safety.
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    \1\ Commercial Driver License Information System (CDLIS) is an 
information system that allows the exchange of commercial driver 
licensing information among all the States. CDLIS includes the 
databases of 51 licensing jurisdictions and the CDLIS Central Site, 
all connected by a telecommunications network.
    \2\ Motor Carrier Management Information System (MCMIS) is an 
information system that captures data from field offices through 
SAFETYNET, CAPRI, and other sources. It is a source for FMCSA 
inspection, crash, compliance review, safety audit, and registration 
data.
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C. Comments

    On December 5, 2013, FMCSA published a notice of receipt of 
exemption applications and requested public comment on 10 individuals 
(Docket number FMCSA-2013-0125). The comment period ended on January 2, 
2014. In response to the notice, FMCSA received three comments. All 
three commenters support the idea of granting exemptions. One of the 
commenters included in this notice, James Gooch, stated that he has 
held a CDL for a long time and has experience driving locally. Andrew 
Mudgett identified many important aspects that should be considered 
before granting a hearing exemption such as moral, economic, safety, 
exemption options and terms. Instead of disallowing deaf or hearing 
impaired drivers to drive, he supports restrictions if necessary and 
``as much leniency as possible'' be given applicants of hearing 
exemptions. Bobby B stated that drivers should be evaluated 
individually because safety is important and that operating in a 
restricted environment should be considered if necessary.
    FMCSA Response: FMCSA acknowledges that safety and a safe driving 
record are important factors to consider when granting hearing 
exemptions. All of the drivers in this notice hold CDLs and have 
demonstrated a safe driving history. FMCSA evaluates past driving 
history and violations to ensure an acceptable level of safety. The 
Agency acknowledges the necessity of restrictions in that the exemption 
restricts these applicants from operating a motorcoach or bus with 
passengers in interstate commerce.

D. Exemptions Granted

    Following individualized assessments of the exemption applications, 
FMCSA grants exemptions from 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) to 10 individuals. 
Under current FMCSA regulations, all of the 10 drivers receiving 
exemptions from 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) would have been considered 
physically qualified to drive a CMV in interstate commerce except that 
they do not meet the hearing requirement. FMCSA has determined that the 
following applicants should be granted an exemption:

Sascha Cotton

    Mr. Cotton, 40, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Florida.

Keith C. Drown

    Mr. Drown, 62, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) in 
Idaho.

Norman Estes

    Mr. Estes, 61, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) in 
Alabama.

David Garland

    Mr. Garland, 43, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Maine.

James Gooch

    Mr. Gooch, 54, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) in 
Missouri.

Harold Johnson

    Mr. Johnson, 62, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Pennsylvania.

Michael Paasch

    Mr. Paasch, 41, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Nebraska.

William Symonds

    Mr. Symonds, 56, holds a class B commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Illinois.

[[Page 22768]]

Anthony Thong

    Mr. Thong, 31, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) in 
California.

Roger Allen Wright

    Mr. Wright, 62, holds a class A commercial driver's license (CDL) 
in Alabama.

E. Basis for Exemption

    Under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315, FMCSA may grant an exemption 
from the hearing standard in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) if the exemption is 
likely to achieve an equivalent or greater level of safety than would 
be achieved without the exemption. With the exemption, applicants can 
drive in interstate commerce. Thus, the Agency's analysis focuses on 
whether an equal or greater level of safety is likely to be achieved by 
permitting each of these drivers to drive in interstate commerce as 
opposed to restricting him or her to driving in intrastate commerce. 
Based on its review of each driver's record, the Agency has concluded 
that allowing these applicants to drive only a property-carrying CMV in 
interstate commerce will achieve an equal level of safety. Each driver 
must comply with the terms and conditions of the exemption. This 
includes reporting any crashes or accidents as defined in 49 CFR 390.5 
and reporting all citations and convictions for disqualifying offenses 
under 49 CFR part 383 and 49 CFR 391.

Conclusion

    The Agency is granting exemptions from the hearing standard, 49 CFR 
391.41(b)(11), to 10 CDL holders based on an evaluation of each 
driver's safety experience. Safety analysis of information relating to 
these 10 applicants meets the burden of showing that granting the 
exemptions to allow them to operate only property-carrying CMVs in 
interstate commerce would achieve a level of safety that is equivalent 
to or greater than the level that would be achieved without the 
exemption. As a result of the exemptions, the CMV industry will gain 10 
additional CMV drivers. In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31315, each 
exemption will be valid for 2 years from the effective date with annual 
recertification required unless revoked earlier by FMCSA. The exemption 
will be revoked if the following occurs: (1) The person fails to comply 
with the terms and conditions of the exemption; (2) the exemption has 
resulted in a lower level of safety than was maintained prior to the 
exemption being granted; or (3) continuation of the exemption would not 
be consistent with the goals and objectives of 49 U.S.C. 31136 and 
31315.
    FMCSA exempts the following 10 drivers for a period of 2 years from 
the physical qualification standard concerning hearing: Sascha Cotton 
(FL); Keith C. Drown (ID); Norman Estes (AL); David Garland (ME); James 
Gooch (MO); Harold Johnson (PA); Michael Paasch (NE); William Symonds 
(IL); Anthony Thong (CA); and Roger Allen Wright (AL).

    Issued on: April 17, 2015.
Larry W. Minor,
Associate Administrator for Policy.
[FR Doc. 2015-09459 Filed 4-22-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P

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