What are the vision requirements to get your CDL?
Getting a CDL license is an investment of time and money that can lead to a long-term career. Before you can earn your CDL and start driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), there are several safety requirements that must be met, including some about a driver’s vision.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) vision standards require that all drivers wanting to earn a commercial driver’s license prove their visual acuity by passing a vision test with 20/40 or better vision in each eye (monocular) and together (binocular) as measured by the standard Snellen eye chart and a field of vision of 70 degrees in each eye’s horizontal meridian. The Snellen test is the one with the big “E” at the top and several rows of progressively smaller letters below it.
The DOT vision test can be taken with or without corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses. If you normally wear contact lenses, you should also wear them during your DOT vision test.
Drivers must also be able to recognize the red, green, and amber colors of traffic signals.
Can you get a CDL if you have bad vision?
As long as you can pass the DOT vision test with or without corrective lenses, your vision is good enough and you can move forward with your CDL application.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also allows for exemptions to be made and has since 1998. This federal vision exemption requires an eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist and a medical examination by a DOT-registered medical examiner. The vision test must result in distant visual acuity of 20/40 or better in the better eye and 70 degrees of peripheral vision. Corrective lenses can also be used in this vision test.
If both examinations go well, the medical examiner can issue a medical certificate for up to one year. This exemption also takes into account whether or not the person being tested has a stable visual deficiency and for how long.
If this is the driver’s first time seeking a visual exemption, they must also pass a road test after the vision test is passed.
This new exemption program became effective on March 22, 2022. Drivers who previously held individual exemptions and want to keep their CDLs will have one year from then to meet the new requirements.
How often do you have to get your eyes checked to maintain a CDL?
Drivers who have a visual acuity exemption need to retake the DOT’s vision test every year. Drivers without the exemption will retake the vision test when they renew the rest of their medical examination, which is good for two years.
The vision test is part of the DOT certification process and your state may have different requirements. It could also make a difference if you’ll be driving for intrastate or interstate commerce, so remember to check in with your local DMV when deciding or preparing to earn your CDL.