The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) filed applications for exemptions with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) on behalf of 21 deaf truck drivers asking the DOT to waive its hearing requirement and allow them to drive commercial motor vehicles. The DOT requires all applicants for a Commercial Drivers’ License (CDL) to prove that they can hear a forced whisper at not less than 5 feet, or that they have a hearing level of less than 40 decibels in the better ear. The NAD has argued for decades that the hearing standard discriminates against people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
The applicants come from all over the United States and include award-winning forklift operators, chauffeurs, package delivery people, and transport drivers. One of the applicants, Randall Doane, of Del Valle, has logged more than 250,000 miles of safe commercial driving. During his years of commercial driving, Mr. Doane drove double/triple trailers, tankers, and vehicles carrying hazardous materials with an average hearing loss of 39 decibels, without a single accident or citation. When his average hearing level tipped just decibels past the DOT limit of 40 decibels, Mr. Doane was no longer permitted to do the job he loved. Now Mr. Doane is hoping for the opportunity to get back on the road.
The DOT has 180 days to respond to the NAD request for exemptions. If DOT grants the exemptions, it will mark the first time deaf drivers are allowed to drive trucks across state lines anywhere in the nation.