A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is a driver’s license necessary to operate trucks and drive interstate. Previously, people with diabetes may not have met the criteria to get a CDL. However, while a person needs to meet numerous health requirements, it is possible for those living with diabetes to become truck and bus drivers.
In 2003, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the agency regulating the trucking industry in the United States, began a system known as the Diabetes Exemption Program. Through this lengthy process, a person with insulin-treated diabetes could obtain an exemption to operate large trucks.
However, in 2018, the FMCSA ended the program. Instead, a person living with diabetes can obtain a Medical Examiner’s Certificate (MEC), a standard certification other drivers need to provide to confirm they are physically able to operate a commercial vehicle.
An individual’s treating clinician completes the assessment form attesting that they have a stable insulin regimen and properly controlled diabetes.
In this article, we discuss how a person with type 2 diabetes can pass their CDL, what it involves, and how long it is valid. We also suggest tips for driving with diabetes.
Following the new ruling by the FMCSA for people living with diabetes in 2018, a person with type 2 diabetes can obtain their CDL.
The new rule reflects modern diabetes management and means there is no longer a blanket exclusion against insulin use.
Previously, it was more difficult for people with insulin-treated diabetes to obtain their CDL. However, the new ruling supports that people with diabetes can safely operate commercial motor vehicles.
According to the new regulations, individuals with type 2 diabetes who do not require insulin only need to follow their state guidelines to obtain and keep a CDL.
If a person with type 2 diabetes requires insulin, they will now only need to obtain a MEC to confirm they have a stable insulin regimen and are able to manage their condition.
Under the new ruling, a listed certified medical examiner (CME) can grant a person with insulin-treated diabetes a MEC for up to 12 months.
To do so, the healthcare professional who manages and prescribes insulin for the person provides the assessment form to the CME. The CME will then determine if the person meets the FMCSA’s qualification standards.
These standards include:
- following a stable insulin regimen
- managing the diabetes
- not having severe non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy or proliferative diabetic retinopathy
- being able to self-monitor and record blood glucose readings
The FMCSA estimates that the annual cost to comply with this ruling is $332, which is significantly lower than the cost prior to the 2018 rule change.
The maximum period of medical certification under the new rule is 12 months. This new ruling is applicable in every state and U.S. territory.
To be eligible for the maximum 12 months, an individual needs to be able to provide sufficient evidence that they are able to manage their condition.
This includes being able to provide at least the preceding 3 months of blood glucose self-monitoring records. Without this, a CME may only be able to provide them a 3-month certificate to allow them to collect the necessary records.
Living with diabetes can affect a person’s ability to drive, as they need to ensure their blood sugars are at suitable levels and may develop complications that may make it more difficult to drive.
Some tips for driving may include:
- checking blood sugar levels before setting off on a journey
- correcting blood glucose levels if necessary and waiting a suitable amount of time until in a suitable range
- bringing treatments, such as suitable carbohydrates, to help manage blood sugar
- avoiding delaying meals or snacks
- scheduling regular breaks
For individuals living with type 2 diabetes, it may be advisable to try the
- following a suitable diet and activity plan
- regularly testing blood sugar levels and recording the results
- trying to recognize the signs of hypo- or hyperglycemic episodes and learning how to manage them
- if necessary, administering insulin using a syringe, pen, or pump
- monitoring their feet, skin, and eyes to catch potential complications early
- buying diabetes supplies and storing them properly
- trying to manage stress
Following the new ruling the FMCSA introduced in 2018, it is easier for people with type 2 diabetes to obtain a CDL. Individuals with insulin-treated diabetes need to obtain a MEC to operate commercial motor vehicles.
The FMCSA keeps a registry of CMEs. These healthcare professionals determine whether a driver meets the FMCSA’s physical qualification standards to hold a CDL. This certification is valid for 12 months and enables a person to obtain a CDL.