National Association of the Deaf

DOT Recognizes Deaf and Hard of Hearing Truck Drivers!

In a historic victory for deaf and hard of hearing truckers, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) announced today, after decades of prohibition, that deaf drivers can operate commercial motor vehicles such as large trucks. Today, the DOT granted 40 applications filed by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) seeking exemption from the hearing standard that has barred deaf drivers from obtaining commercial drivers’ licenses (CDLs). In announcing this historic decision, the DOT cited research demonstrating that deaf drivers are as safe as hearing drivers.

The DOT regulates the physical qualifications standards, or physical requirements, for people who want to operate commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. For decades, the DOT has maintained a hearing standard that has excluded safe and skilled deaf drivers from a career in commercial trucking. The DOT hearing standard, contained in 49 C.F.R. §391.41(b)(11), requires that a CDL applicant be able to hear a forced whisper in the better ear at not less than five feet, or that an applicant does not have an average hearing loss in the better ear greater than 40 decibels at 500 Hz, 1,00 Hz, and 2,000 Hz with or without a hearing aid. The NAD has long argued that this standard has no relevance to safe operation of commercial motor vehicles and has insisted that the DOT rescind this standard.

In July 2011, the NAD filed exemption applications asking DOT to waive the hearing standard and allow deaf truckers with safe driving records to operate commercial motor vehicles. In February 2012, the NAD submitt