School Bus Drivers: New FMCSA Diabetes Rule
published on May 07, 2019 by Sonia Mastros
Insulin-dependent diabetics got a big piece of good news this month: Thanks to a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule change, it is now much easier for them to receive commercial interstate driver's licenses.
Previously, rules in place since 1970 have generally prevented insulin-dependent diabetics from receiving commercial licenses. This was done out of concern that diabetic drivers might not properly manage their illness, leading to their impairment while driving. To get a commercial license, they would have needed to get a special exemption waver - basically going out of their way to demonstrate that they could be trusted on the road.
Now, that rule has been largely rescinded. As of November 19, 2018, insulin-dependent diabetics will be able to receive commercial licenses with little more than a doctor's note attesting that they properly manage their illness. There are still a few exceptions where diabetes complications are involved, particularly diabetic retinopathy. However, for most diabetics, it will now be much easier to get a commercial license.
So the question is, does this affect school bus drivers? Well, yes and no.
What School Bus Drivers Should Know About the FMCSA Diabetes Rule Changes
The pertinent issue here is the scope of FMCSA's jurisdiction. As a Federal organization, they are restricted to dealing with interstate commerce. As such, most school bus drivers are not subject to their regulations. Particularly when a school owns and operates their own fleet, the district has the final word on whether they hire diabetics.
That said, there are some situations where drivers may be impacted by this, such as drivers working for one of the major outsourced school bus groups. Also, it could come into play in extremely rare situations where a school district straddles state lines.
So, in the short term, this should have relatively little direct impact on school bus drivers.
On the longer term, this could actually turn out to be good for districts. There are still major bus driver shortages around the nation. An initiative which encourages more people to get commercial licenses should end up creating a larger labor pool from which districts can hire drivers. Of course, they will be competing with the trucking industry - which is also facing shortages - but still, more drivers entering the workforce is a very good thing right now.
So, will these FMCSA rule changes affect your district? Let's talk about it in the comments below!