Under a law passed in 2003, anyone with insulin-dependent diabetes who wishes to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) must apply for an exemption from the blanket ban on CDL holders with insulin-dependent diabetes. Prior to the 2003 exemption rule, no one with insulin-dependent diabetes could hold a CDL, including semi-truck drivers.
The exemption, which is officially known as the Diabetes Exemption Program, requires insulin-dependent diabetics to have their health history evaluated on a case by case basis, and to be evaluated by both an endocrinologist and ophthalmologist or optometrist. This means that two doctors — specialists in diabetes and eyesight — must officially state that an individual is fit to operate a commercial vehicle.
The reason for the exemption requirement is that insulin-dependent diabetics can experience serious health complications if their insulin or blood sugar levels dip dangerously low. Diabetes is a serious disease that can cause a person to lose consciousness if their blood sugar levels descend into hypoglycemia. In extreme cases, sufferers can experience a life-threatening condition called “insulin shock.” Obviously, a driver who goes into shock and passes out behind the wheel of a semi-truck could cause a catastrophic accident.
Diabetes is currently on the rise in the United States. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, nearly half of all Americans are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.