National Association of the Deaf Petition for Rulemaking; Hearing Requirement for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers, 68386-68389 [2019-26942]

Download as PDF 68386 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 241 / Monday, December 16, 2019 / Proposed Rules Class A, B, C, D, and E airspace areas, air traffic service routes, and reporting points. The Proposal The FAA proposes an amendment to Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 71 to amend Class D, Class E airspace designated as an extension to a Class D surface area, and Class E airspace extending upward from 700 feet or more above the surface at Boire Field, Nashua, NH, by eliminating the northwest extension of the airport due to the cancellation of the NDB approach. The FAA also proposes to update the geographic coordinates of Boire Field and Manchester VORTAC to coincide with the FAA’s aeronautical database. In addition, this action would recognize the name change of Pepperell Airport (formerly Sports Center Airport). Also, an editorial change would be made replacing the outdated term Airport/ Facility Directory with the term Chart Supplement in the associated Class D and E airspace legal descriptions for Boire Field. Class D and Class E airspace designations are published in Paragraphs 5000, 6004, and 6005, respectively of FAA Order 7400.11D, dated August 8, 2019, and effective September 15, 2019, which is incorporated by reference in 14 CFR 71.1. The Class D and E airspace designations listed in this document will be published subsequently in the Order. FAA Order 7400.11, Airspace Designations and Reporting Points, is published yearly and effective on September 15. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Regulatory Notices and Analyses The FAA has determined that this proposed regulation only involves an established body of technical regulations for which frequent and routine amendments are necessary to keep them operationally current. It, therefore: (1) Is not a ‘‘significant regulatory action’’ under Executive Order 12866; (2) is not a ‘‘significant rule’’ under DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures (44 FR 11034; February 26, 1979); and (3) does not warrant preparation of a Regulatory Evaluation as the anticipated impact is so minimal. Since this is a routine matter that will only affect air traffic procedures and air navigation, it is certified that this proposed rule, when promulgated, will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities under the criteria of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:14 Dec 13, 2019 Jkt 250001 Environmental Review This proposal will be subject to an environmental analysis in accordance with FAA Order 1050.1F, paragraph 5– 6.5(a), ‘‘Environmental Impacts: Policies and Procedures’’ prior to any FAA final regulatory action. effective during the specific dates and times established in advance by a Notice to Airmen. The effective date and time will thereafter be continuously published in the Chart Supplement. Paragraph 6005 Class E Airspace Areas Extending Upward From 700 Feet or More Above the Surface of the Earth. Lists of Subjects in 14 CFR Part 71 * Airspace, Incorporation by reference, Navigation (air). ANE NH E5 Nashua, NH [Amended] Boire Field, NH (Lat. 42°46′57″ N, long. 71°30′51″ W) That airspace extending upward from 700 feet above the surface within a 7.9-mile radius of Boire Field. The Proposed Amendment In consideration of the foregoing, the Federal Aviation Administration proposes to amend 14 CFR part 71 as follows: PART 71—DESIGNATION OF CLASS A, B, C, D, AND E AIRSPACE AREAS; AIR TRAFFIC SERVICE ROUTES; AND REPORTING POINTS 1. The authority citation for part 71 continues to read as follows: ■ Authority: 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 106(g); 40103, 40113, 40120; E.O. 10854, 24 FR 9565, 3 CFR, 1959–1963 Comp., p. 389. § 71.1 [Amended] 2. The incorporation by reference in 14 CFR 71.1 of Federal Aviation Administration Order 7400.11D, Airspace Designations and Reporting Points, dated August 8, 2019, and effective September 15, 2019, is amended as follows: ■ Paragraph 5000 Class D Airspace. * * * * * ANE NH D Nashua, NH [Amended] Boire Field, NH (Lat. 42°46′57″ N, long. 71°30′51″ W) Pepperell Airport, MA (Lat. 42°41′46″ N, long. 71°33′00″ W) That airspace extending upward from the surface to and including 2,700 feet MSL within a 5-mile radius of Boire Field; excluding that airspace within a 2-mile radius of Pepperell Airport. This Class D airspace area is effective during the specific dates and times established in advance by a Notice to Airmen. The effective date and time will thereafter be continuously published in the Chart Supplement. Paragraph 6004 Class E Airspace Designated as an Extension to Class D or E Surface Area. * * * * * ANE NH E4 Nashua, NH [Amended] Boire Field, NH (Lat. 42°46′57″ N, long. 71°30′51″ W) Manchester VORTAC (Lat. 42°52′07″ N, long. 71°22′10″ W) That airspace extending upward from the surface within 1.1 miles on each side of the Manchester VORTAC 231° radial extending from the 5-mile radius to 8.4 miles northeast of Boire Field. This Class E airspace area is PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 * * * * Issued in College Park, Georgia, on December 5, 2019. Matt Cathcart, Acting Manager, Operations Support Group, Eastern Service Center, Air Traffic Organization. [FR Doc. 2019–26856 Filed 12–13–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–13–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration 49 CFR Chapter III [Docket No. FMCSA–2019–0151] National Association of the Deaf Petition for Rulemaking; Hearing Requirement for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT. ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; request for public comments. AGENCY: FMCSA requests public comments on the National Association of the Deaf’s (NAD) petition for rulemaking to rescind the requirement for interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to be able to hear. NAD also requests that FMCSA amend the requirement that interstate drivers be able to speak, and the rule prohibiting the use of interpreters during the administration of the commercial driver’s license (CDL) skills test. NAD believes the origins of the hearing requirement dates to a time of misguided stereotypes about the abilities and inabilities of deaf and hard of hearing individuals and the rules should now be changed. DATES: Comments must be submitted by February 14, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA– 2019–0151 using any of the following methods: SUMMARY: E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 241 / Monday, December 16, 2019 / Proposed Rules • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. • Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12–140, Washington, DC 20590–0001. • Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, Room W12– 140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. • Fax: (202) 493–2251. To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods. See the ‘‘Public Participation and Request for Comments’’ portion of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for instructions on submitting comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Christine A. Hydock, Chief, Medical Programs Division, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590–0001, by telephone at (202) 366– 4001, or by email at fmcsamedical@ dot.gov. If you have questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, contact Docket Services, telephone (202) 366–9826. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS A. Submitting Comments If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this document (Docket No. FMCSA–2019– 0151), indicate the specific section of this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for each suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and material online or by fax, mail, or hand delivery, but please use only one of these means. FMCSA recommends that you include your name and a mailing address, an email address, or a telephone number in the body of your document so that FMCSA can contact you if there are questions regarding your submission. To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, put the docket number, FMCSA–2019–0151, in the keyword box, and click ‘‘Search.’’ When the new screen appears, click on the ‘‘Comment Now!’’ button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on behalf of a third party and then submit. If you submit your comments by mail or hand delivery, submit them in an unbound format, no larger than 81⁄2 by 11 inches, suitable for copying and electronic filing. If you submit VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:14 Dec 13, 2019 Jkt 250001 comments by mail and would like to know that they reached the facility, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed postcard or envelope. FMCSA will consider all comments and material received during the comment period and may change this proposed rule based on your comments. FMCSA may issue a final rule at any time after the close of the comment period. Confidential Business Information Confidential Business Information (CBI) is commercial or financial information that is customarily not made available to the general public by the submitter. Under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552), CBI is eligible for protection from public disclosure. If you have CBI that is relevant or responsive to this document, it is important that you clearly designate the submitted comments as CBI. Accordingly, please mark each page of your submission as ‘‘confidential’’ or ‘‘CBI.’’ Submissions designated as CBI and meeting the definition noted above will not be placed in the public docket of this document. Submissions containing CBI should be sent to Brian Dahlin, Chief, Regulatory Evaluation Division, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590– 0001. Any commentary that FMCSA receives that is not specifically designated as CBI will be placed in the public docket for this document. B. Viewing Comments and Documents To view comments, as well as any documents mentioned in this preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Insert the docket number, FMCSA–2019–0151 in the keyword box, and click ‘‘Search.’’ Next, click the ‘‘Open Docket Folder’’ button and choose the document to review. If you do not have access to the internet, you may view the docket online by visiting the Docket Management Facility in Room W12–140 on the ground floor of the DOT West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590–0001, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. C. Privacy Act In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these comments, without edit, including any personal information the commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system of records notice (DOT/ALL– PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 68387 14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at www.transportation.gov/privacy. I. Background A. The Hearing Standard and the Granting of Exemptions The current hearing standard under 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) was adopted in 1970, with a revision in 1971 to allow drivers to be qualified under this standard while wearing a hearing aid, 35 FR 6458, 6463 (April 22, 1970) and 36 FR 12857 (July 3, 1971).1 On May 25, 2012, FMCSA published a notice requesting public comment on the application from NAD for an exemption from the regulatory requirement in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) on behalf of 45 deaf drivers (77 FR 31423). The Agency received 570 comments in response to that notice, and 40 of the 45 applicants were granted exemptions (78 FR 7479). Since that time, FMCSA has granted more than 450 hearing exemptions to individuals who do not meet the hearing standard. In doing so, FMCSA has published numerous Federal Register notices announcing receipt of hearing exemption applications and requesting public comment, prior to granting the individual exemptions. See, e.g., 84 FR 5544 (February 21 2019); 84 FR 21392 (May 14, 2019). B. Speaking Requirement for Interstate Drivers Currently, § 391.11(b)(2) requires that interstate CMV drivers read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries on reports and records. The requirement to speak was adopted on December 23, 1936 by the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the Federal agency responsible for motor carrier safety prior to the establishment of the U.S. Department of Transportation. (1 M.C.C. 1, at 18–19). On May 27, 1939, the ICC made certain changes and additions to the Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including elimination of the exceptions granted by the original rules for those drivers unable to read and speak English. As stated in that notice, ‘‘The intent of the Commission to require such ability of all drivers in this service has been unmistakable since 1937, and the intervening period of more than two years is regarded as sufficient to justify the removal of the exception.’’ (14 1 A hearing requirement has been included in the physical qualifications for commercial drivers since 1940. Cf. 4 FR 2294, 2295 (June 7, 1939). E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 68388 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 241 / Monday, December 16, 2019 / Proposed Rules M.C.C. 669, at 675). The requirements have remained essentially unchanged since the 1930s. lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS C. Prohibition Against Interpreters During the CDL Skills Test On May 9, 2011 (76 FR 26854), FMCSA published a final rule amending the CDL knowledge and skills testing standards. The final rule included prohibitions against the use of interpreters during the administration of the CDL knowledge and skills tests. Section 383.133(b)(3) provides that the CDL knowledge tests may be administered in written form, verbally, or in automated format and can be administered in a foreign language, provided that no interpreter is used in administering the test. Section 383.133(c)(5) prohibits interpreters during the administration of skills tests. Paragraph (c)(5) also states that applicants must be able to understand and respond to verbal commands and instructions in English by a skills test examiner. Neither the applicant nor the examiner may communicate in a language other than English during the skills test. D. NAD Petition To Change the Rules NAD petitioned FMCSA to change its safety regulations so that deaf and hard of hearing individuals would be allowed to operate CMVs in interstate commerce. Although FMCSA has granted exemptions from § 391.41(b)(11) concerning physical qualifications for deaf and hard of hearing individuals as noted above, NAD believes the rule should be changed to eliminate the regulatory barrier to these individuals operating CMVs in interstate commerce. NAD also contends that both the hearing requirement for physical qualification to operate a commercial vehicle and the speaking requirement are violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.2 A copy of the petition is included in the docket referenced at the beginning of this document. In granting the exemptions discussed above, the Agency did not provide relief from the requirement that drivers be able to communicate in English and the prohibition against interpreters during the CDL knowledge and skills tests. However, the Agency has provided clarifications on how these requirements should be applied in the context of deaf or hard of hearing individuals. On December 29, 2017 (82 FR 61809), FMCSA published a notice announcing its response to certain substantive comments submitted to one of the 2 29 U.S.C. 701, et seq. VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:14 Dec 13, 2019 Jkt 250001 notices regarding the granting of exemptions from the hearing requirement for multiple drivers. The Agency explained that the restriction under 49 CFR 383.133(c)(5) does not mean that a skills test cannot be accomplished with a deaf or hard of hearing individual. The 2017 notice stated: Generally, FMCSA has addressed this issue in formal guidance, which is found at Question 7 to 49 CFR 391.11(b)(2) (published on October 1, 2014 at 79 FR 59139). The guidance is premised on the position that the term ‘‘speak,’’ as used with the associated rule, should not be construed so narrowly as to find a deaf driver who does not use oral communication in violation of that regulation. Similarly, the term ‘‘verbal’’ in 49 CFR 383.133 should not be construed so narrowly when examiners are administering skills tests to applicants with a hearing exemption, and should be applied to permit communication in forms other than verbal. If the actual skills tests are administered without the aid of an interpreter, the State is in compliance with 49 CFR 383.133(c)(5). Additionally, as noted above, there are no prohibitions against the use of an interpreter prior to the skills test generally or in between the three segments of the test. Use of a skills test examiner who is capable of communicating via American Sign Language is also an option. II. Requests for Public Comments After the publication of the December 29, 2017, notice, several motor carriers and CDL training providers shared with FMCSA their concerns about safety when it comes to behind-the-wheel training of deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Behind-the-wheel training requires communication between the instructor and the student while the vehicle is in motion under a variety of conditions. This includes operating on public roads in traffic, and at highway speeds. Given that deaf and hard of hearing individuals rely on sign language, written messages or other visual indicators, training providers have expressed concerns about safety when the students take their eyes off the road to focus on communication with the instructor. Motor carriers also raised concerns about work-place safety with such individuals. Safety concerns include identifying effective alternatives to audible alerts and warnings for hazardous conditions, such as trucks backing around loading docks and driven around terminals. The FMCSA requests public comments on NAD’s petition for rulemaking, with a focus on five areas of concern: PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 Safety During CDL Training FMCSA’s hearing requirement is applicable to individuals who operate CMVs (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5) in interstate commerce, regardless of whether they are required to have a CDL. There are also some regulatory exemptions from the physical qualification requirements. See, generally, 49 CFR 390.3(f) and 391.2. Therefore, some individuals seeking CDL training have not been, and would not be, subject to the hearing standard. This includes, for example, individuals that drive or plan to drive for Federal, State or local government agencies that do not impose the same physical qualification requirements on their employees, etc. What actions have CDL training providers, including governmental entities providing such training, taken to address the needs of CDL applicants seeking employment opportunities in transportation sectors that are exempt from FMCSA’s physical qualifications standards and to what extent would these practices be helpful to training providers preparing drivers to operate in sectors subject to FMCSA’s physical qualifications standards? How do CDL training providers ensure safe operations during behind-the-wheel training of deaf and hard of hearing individuals on public roads? CDL Skills Test Administration With the granting of hearing exemptions as discussed above, some State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have raised concerns about challenges administering the CDL skills test to deaf and hard of hearing individuals. The SDLAs expressed concern that the prohibition against interpreters during the skills test precludes the administration of the tests if the CDL examiner is not capable of communicating with sign language. In addition, SDLAs have expressed concerns about safety of operations when the CDL examiner must communicate with the applicant while the vehicle is in operation on a public road. FMCSA requests information from the SDLAs concerning challenges their examiners have experienced administering the CDL skills test under such circumstances and what accommodations, if any, have been made to complete the skills test while complying with the prohibition against the use of interpreters. The Agency also requests comment on steps taken to address or minimize the time applicants must take their eyes off the road to receive instruction or feedback from the CDL examiner. E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1 Federal Register / Vol. 84, No. 241 / Monday, December 16, 2019 / Proposed Rules Workplace Safety FMCSA has statutory direction to ensure that operation of a CMV does not have a deleterious effect on the health of CMV operators. To consider the impact of a change in the hearing requirement on driver health, the Agency requests comments from motor carriers about their concerns about ensuring the safety of deaf and hard of hearing individuals at facilities where trucks are loaded and unloaded, and terminals at which trucks may be operated with workers walking around. Under such scenarios, deaf or hard of hearing individuals would not be able to hear audible alarms or signals of workplace hazards. The Agency requests information about safety precautions that are being taken to accommodate such individuals and the experiences of these employers with workplace incidents and injuries. Safety Impacts if FMCSA Grants NAD’s Petition In consideration of the areas highlighted above, the Agency request comments on whether the Agency should grant NAD’s petition for rulemaking, in whole or in part, and initiate a notice-and-comment rulemaking proceeding. The Agency seeks information on whether a regulatory change would significantly increase the number of individuals seeking training and employment as interstate CMV drivers. Also, would CDL training providers and motor carriers face additional challenges if the population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals seeking entry into the industry increased significantly? lotter on DSKBCFDHB2PROD with PROPOSALS Granting of Hearing Exemptions As noted above, the Agency has granted more than 450 hearing exemptions since 2012. The exemptions cover a range of circumstances necessitating relief from the hearing standard, from individuals with CDLs in need of an exemption to allow them to operate in interstate commerce, to individuals seeking a CDL to begin a career in the interstate motor carrier industry. The exemptions also cover individuals interested in operating CMVs for which a CDL is not required. If FMCSA denies the NAD petition for rulemaking, should the Agency continue granting exemptions, or consider limiting the exemptions to certain categories such as individuals intending to operate CMVs for which a CDL is not required, or individuals who already hold a CDL? VerDate Sep<11>2014 22:14 Dec 13, 2019 Jkt 250001 Issued under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.87 on: December 10, 2019. Jim Mullen, Acting Administrator. [FR Doc. 2019–26942 Filed 12–13–19; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–EX–P DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 50 CFR Part 600 [Docket No. 191209–0103] RIN 0648–BI82 Clarification of Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act Regulation Regarding Monitor National Marine Sanctuary; Proposed Rulemaking National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce. ACTION: Proposed rule; request for comments. AGENCY: NMFS is proposing to clarify its regulation which interprets other regulations to prohibit all fishing in the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (Sanctuary). This is inconsistent with the applicable Sanctuary regulation that prohibits some, but not all, fishing activity in the Sanctuary. This proposed rule would revise regulations by removing the fishing prohibition text and cross-referencing the Sanctuary regulations instead. DATES: Comments must be received by January 15, 2020. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments, identified by NOAA–NMFS–2019–0114, by the following method: Electronic Submissions: Submit all electronic public comments via the Federal e-Rulemaking portal: http:// www.regulations.gov. Instructions: All comments received are a part of the public record and will generally be posted to http:// www.regulations.gov without change. All Personal Identifying Information (for example, name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter may be publicly accessible. Do not submit confidential business information or otherwise sensitive or protected information. NMFS will accept anonymous comments. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Chris Wright, Fishery Policy Analyst, 301–427–8504, or via email chris.wright@noaa.gov. SUMMARY: PO 00000 Frm 00040 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 68389 SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Background The Sanctuary was designated as the nation’s first national marine sanctuary in 1975. The site protects the wreck of the famed Civil War ironclad U.S.S. Monitor. The U.S.S. Monitor is located approximately 15 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Sanctuary currently surrounds the shipwreck and consists of a vertical column of water one mile (1.61 km) in diameter (0.78 square miles (2.02 square km) in size) extending from the seabed to the surface, the center of which is at 35°00′23″ north latitude and 75°24′32″ west longitude (15 CFR 922.60). The U.S.S. Monitor is in water depths of 240 feet (22.3 m). Fishing in Federal waters off North Carolina is economically and socially vital to the state’s residents, visitors, and coastal communities. Commercial and recreational fishing provides an important source of employment, income, recreation, and food, and is a significant driver for local tourism. The United States claims sovereign rights and exclusive fishery management authority over fish within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area extending 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) from the seaward boundary of coastal states and U.S. territories (16 U.S.C. 1811(a)). Within the EEZ, Federal fishery management is conducted under the authority of the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA) (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.). NMFS, acting under authority delegated from the Secretary of Commerce, is responsible for managing fisheries pursuant to the MSA. To assist in fishery management, the MSA established eight regional fishery management councils that develop and submit fishery management plans to NMFS (16 U.S.C. 1852(a)) for specific geographic areas. NMFS is responsible for developing fishery management plans for Atlantic highly migratory species (16 U.S.C. 1852(a)(3)). This action affects regulations codified in the General Provisions for Domestic Fisheries (50 CFR part 600, subpart H). The proposed action would alleviate the potential for confusion regarding the fishing restrictions applicable to the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary or other sanctuaries. NMFS is taking this action pursuant to MSA § 305(d), which gives the Agency general authority to carry out fishery management plans adopted under the MSA. E:\FR\FM\16DEP1.SGM 16DEP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 84, Number 241 (Monday, December 16, 2019)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 68386-68389]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2019-26942]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

49 CFR Chapter III

[Docket No. FMCSA-2019-0151]


National Association of the Deaf Petition for Rulemaking; Hearing 
Requirement for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Petition for rulemaking; request for public comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: FMCSA requests public comments on the National Association of 
the Deaf's (NAD) petition for rulemaking to rescind the requirement for 
interstate drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) to be able to 
hear. NAD also requests that FMCSA amend the requirement that 
interstate drivers be able to speak, and the rule prohibiting the use 
of interpreters during the administration of the commercial driver's 
license (CDL) skills test. NAD believes the origins of the hearing 
requirement dates to a time of misguided stereotypes about the 
abilities and inabilities of deaf and hard of hearing individuals and 
the rules should now be changed.

DATES: Comments must be submitted by February 14, 2020.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments identified by Docket Number FMCSA-
2019-0151 using any of the following methods:

[[Page 68387]]

     Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. 
Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.
     Mail: Docket Management Facility, U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building, Ground Floor, 
Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.
     Hand Delivery or Courier: West Building, Ground Floor, 
Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590, between 
9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
     Fax: (202) 493-2251.
    To avoid duplication, please use only one of these four methods. 
See the ``Public Participation and Request for Comments'' portion of 
the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section for instructions on submitting 
comments.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Christine A. Hydock, Chief, 
Medical Programs Division, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001, by telephone at 
(202) 366-4001, or by email at [email protected]. If you have 
questions on viewing or submitting material to the docket, contact 
Docket Services, telephone (202) 366-9826.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

A. Submitting Comments

    If you submit a comment, please include the docket number for this 
document (Docket No. FMCSA-2019-0151), indicate the specific section of 
this document to which each comment applies, and provide a reason for 
each suggestion or recommendation. You may submit your comments and 
material online or by fax, mail, or hand delivery, but please use only 
one of these means. FMCSA recommends that you include your name and a 
mailing address, an email address, or a telephone number in the body of 
your document so that FMCSA can contact you if there are questions 
regarding your submission.
    To submit your comment online, go to http://www.regulations.gov, 
put the docket number, FMCSA-2019-0151, in the keyword box, and click 
``Search.'' When the new screen appears, click on the ``Comment Now!'' 
button and type your comment into the text box on the following screen. 
Choose whether you are submitting your comment as an individual or on 
behalf of a third party and then submit.
    If you submit your comments by mail or hand delivery, submit them 
in an unbound format, no larger than 8\1/2\ by 11 inches, suitable for 
copying and electronic filing. If you submit comments by mail and would 
like to know that they reached the facility, please enclose a stamped, 
self-addressed postcard or envelope.
    FMCSA will consider all comments and material received during the 
comment period and may change this proposed rule based on your 
comments. FMCSA may issue a final rule at any time after the close of 
the comment period.

Confidential Business Information

    Confidential Business Information (CBI) is commercial or financial 
information that is customarily not made available to the general 
public by the submitter. Under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 
552), CBI is eligible for protection from public disclosure. If you 
have CBI that is relevant or responsive to this document, it is 
important that you clearly designate the submitted comments as CBI. 
Accordingly, please mark each page of your submission as 
``confidential'' or ``CBI.'' Submissions designated as CBI and meeting 
the definition noted above will not be placed in the public docket of 
this document. Submissions containing CBI should be sent to Brian 
Dahlin, Chief, Regulatory Evaluation Division, Federal Motor Carrier 
Safety Administration, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-
0001. Any commentary that FMCSA receives that is not specifically 
designated as CBI will be placed in the public docket for this 
document.

B. Viewing Comments and Documents

    To view comments, as well as any documents mentioned in this 
preamble as being available in the docket, go to http://www.regulations.gov. Insert the docket number, FMCSA-2019-0151 in the 
keyword box, and click ``Search.'' Next, click the ``Open Docket 
Folder'' button and choose the document to review. If you do not have 
access to the internet, you may view the docket online by visiting the 
Docket Management Facility in Room W12-140 on the ground floor of the 
DOT West Building, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20590-
0001, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except 
Federal holidays.

C. Privacy Act

    In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 553(c), DOT solicits comments from the 
public to better inform its rulemaking process. DOT posts these 
comments, without edit, including any personal information the 
commenter provides, to www.regulations.gov, as described in the system 
of records notice (DOT/ALL-14 FDMS), which can be reviewed at 
www.transportation.gov/privacy.

I. Background

A. The Hearing Standard and the Granting of Exemptions

    The current hearing standard under 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) was adopted 
in 1970, with a revision in 1971 to allow drivers to be qualified under 
this standard while wearing a hearing aid, 35 FR 6458, 6463 (April 22, 
1970) and 36 FR 12857 (July 3, 1971).\1\
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    \1\ A hearing requirement has been included in the physical 
qualifications for commercial drivers since 1940. Cf. 4 FR 2294, 
2295 (June 7, 1939).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    On May 25, 2012, FMCSA published a notice requesting public comment 
on the application from NAD for an exemption from the regulatory 
requirement in 49 CFR 391.41(b)(11) on behalf of 45 deaf drivers (77 FR 
31423). The Agency received 570 comments in response to that notice, 
and 40 of the 45 applicants were granted exemptions (78 FR 7479). Since 
that time, FMCSA has granted more than 450 hearing exemptions to 
individuals who do not meet the hearing standard. In doing so, FMCSA 
has published numerous Federal Register notices announcing receipt of 
hearing exemption applications and requesting public comment, prior to 
granting the individual exemptions. See, e.g., 84 FR 5544 (February 21 
2019); 84 FR 21392 (May 14, 2019).

B. Speaking Requirement for Interstate Drivers

    Currently, Sec.  391.11(b)(2) requires that interstate CMV drivers 
read and speak the English language sufficiently to converse with the 
general public, to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the 
English language, to respond to official inquiries, and to make entries 
on reports and records.
    The requirement to speak was adopted on December 23, 1936 by the 
Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the Federal agency responsible 
for motor carrier safety prior to the establishment of the U.S. 
Department of Transportation. (1 M.C.C. 1, at 18-19).
    On May 27, 1939, the ICC made certain changes and additions to the 
Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, including elimination of the 
exceptions granted by the original rules for those drivers unable to 
read and speak English. As stated in that notice, ``The intent of the 
Commission to require such ability of all drivers in this service has 
been unmistakable since 1937, and the intervening period of more than 
two years is regarded as sufficient to justify the removal of the 
exception.'' (14

[[Page 68388]]

M.C.C. 669, at 675). The requirements have remained essentially 
unchanged since the 1930s.

C. Prohibition Against Interpreters During the CDL Skills Test

    On May 9, 2011 (76 FR 26854), FMCSA published a final rule amending 
the CDL knowledge and skills testing standards. The final rule included 
prohibitions against the use of interpreters during the administration 
of the CDL knowledge and skills tests. Section 383.133(b)(3) provides 
that the CDL knowledge tests may be administered in written form, 
verbally, or in automated format and can be administered in a foreign 
language, provided that no interpreter is used in administering the 
test. Section 383.133(c)(5) prohibits interpreters during the 
administration of skills tests. Paragraph (c)(5) also states that 
applicants must be able to understand and respond to verbal commands 
and instructions in English by a skills test examiner. Neither the 
applicant nor the examiner may communicate in a language other than 
English during the skills test.

D. NAD Petition To Change the Rules

    NAD petitioned FMCSA to change its safety regulations so that deaf 
and hard of hearing individuals would be allowed to operate CMVs in 
interstate commerce. Although FMCSA has granted exemptions from Sec.  
391.41(b)(11) concerning physical qualifications for deaf and hard of 
hearing individuals as noted above, NAD believes the rule should be 
changed to eliminate the regulatory barrier to these individuals 
operating CMVs in interstate commerce. NAD also contends that both the 
hearing requirement for physical qualification to operate a commercial 
vehicle and the speaking requirement are violations of the 
Rehabilitation Act of 1973.\2\ A copy of the petition is included in 
the docket referenced at the beginning of this document.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \2\ 29 U.S.C. 701, et seq.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In granting the exemptions discussed above, the Agency did not 
provide relief from the requirement that drivers be able to communicate 
in English and the prohibition against interpreters during the CDL 
knowledge and skills tests. However, the Agency has provided 
clarifications on how these requirements should be applied in the 
context of deaf or hard of hearing individuals.
    On December 29, 2017 (82 FR 61809), FMCSA published a notice 
announcing its response to certain substantive comments submitted to 
one of the notices regarding the granting of exemptions from the 
hearing requirement for multiple drivers. The Agency explained that the 
restriction under 49 CFR 383.133(c)(5) does not mean that a skills test 
cannot be accomplished with a deaf or hard of hearing individual. The 
2017 notice stated:

    Generally, FMCSA has addressed this issue in formal guidance, 
which is found at Question 7 to 49 CFR 391.11(b)(2) (published on 
October 1, 2014 at 79 FR 59139). The guidance is premised on the 
position that the term ``speak,'' as used with the associated rule, 
should not be construed so narrowly as to find a deaf driver who 
does not use oral communication in violation of that regulation. 
Similarly, the term ``verbal'' in 49 CFR 383.133 should not be 
construed so narrowly when examiners are administering skills tests 
to applicants with a hearing exemption, and should be applied to 
permit communication in forms other than verbal. If the actual 
skills tests are administered without the aid of an interpreter, the 
State is in compliance with 49 CFR 383.133(c)(5). Additionally, as 
noted above, there are no prohibitions against the use of an 
interpreter prior to the skills test generally or in between the 
three segments of the test. Use of a skills test examiner who is 
capable of communicating via American Sign Language is also an 
option.

II. Requests for Public Comments

    After the publication of the December 29, 2017, notice, several 
motor carriers and CDL training providers shared with FMCSA their 
concerns about safety when it comes to behind-the-wheel training of 
deaf or hard of hearing individuals. Behind-the-wheel training requires 
communication between the instructor and the student while the vehicle 
is in motion under a variety of conditions. This includes operating on 
public roads in traffic, and at highway speeds. Given that deaf and 
hard of hearing individuals rely on sign language, written messages or 
other visual indicators, training providers have expressed concerns 
about safety when the students take their eyes off the road to focus on 
communication with the instructor.
    Motor carriers also raised concerns about work-place safety with 
such individuals. Safety concerns include identifying effective 
alternatives to audible alerts and warnings for hazardous conditions, 
such as trucks backing around loading docks and driven around 
terminals.
    The FMCSA requests public comments on NAD's petition for 
rulemaking, with a focus on five areas of concern:

Safety During CDL Training

    FMCSA's hearing requirement is applicable to individuals who 
operate CMVs (as defined in 49 CFR 390.5) in interstate commerce, 
regardless of whether they are required to have a CDL. There are also 
some regulatory exemptions from the physical qualification 
requirements. See, generally, 49 CFR 390.3(f) and 391.2. Therefore, 
some individuals seeking CDL training have not been, and would not be, 
subject to the hearing standard. This includes, for example, 
individuals that drive or plan to drive for Federal, State or local 
government agencies that do not impose the same physical qualification 
requirements on their employees, etc. What actions have CDL training 
providers, including governmental entities providing such training, 
taken to address the needs of CDL applicants seeking employment 
opportunities in transportation sectors that are exempt from FMCSA's 
physical qualifications standards and to what extent would these 
practices be helpful to training providers preparing drivers to operate 
in sectors subject to FMCSA's physical qualifications standards? How do 
CDL training providers ensure safe operations during behind-the-wheel 
training of deaf and hard of hearing individuals on public roads?

CDL Skills Test Administration

    With the granting of hearing exemptions as discussed above, some 
State Driver Licensing Agencies (SDLAs) have raised concerns about 
challenges administering the CDL skills test to deaf and hard of 
hearing individuals. The SDLAs expressed concern that the prohibition 
against interpreters during the skills test precludes the 
administration of the tests if the CDL examiner is not capable of 
communicating with sign language.
    In addition, SDLAs have expressed concerns about safety of 
operations when the CDL examiner must communicate with the applicant 
while the vehicle is in operation on a public road.
    FMCSA requests information from the SDLAs concerning challenges 
their examiners have experienced administering the CDL skills test 
under such circumstances and what accommodations, if any, have been 
made to complete the skills test while complying with the prohibition 
against the use of interpreters. The Agency also requests comment on 
steps taken to address or minimize the time applicants must take their 
eyes off the road to receive instruction or feedback from the CDL 
examiner.

[[Page 68389]]

Workplace Safety

    FMCSA has statutory direction to ensure that operation of a CMV 
does not have a deleterious effect on the health of CMV operators. To 
consider the impact of a change in the hearing requirement on driver 
health, the Agency requests comments from motor carriers about their 
concerns about ensuring the safety of deaf and hard of hearing 
individuals at facilities where trucks are loaded and unloaded, and 
terminals at which trucks may be operated with workers walking around. 
Under such scenarios, deaf or hard of hearing individuals would not be 
able to hear audible alarms or signals of workplace hazards. The Agency 
requests information about safety precautions that are being taken to 
accommodate such individuals and the experiences of these employers 
with workplace incidents and injuries.

Safety Impacts if FMCSA Grants NAD's Petition

    In consideration of the areas highlighted above, the Agency request 
comments on whether the Agency should grant NAD's petition for 
rulemaking, in whole or in part, and initiate a notice-and-comment 
rulemaking proceeding. The Agency seeks information on whether a 
regulatory change would significantly increase the number of 
individuals seeking training and employment as interstate CMV drivers. 
Also, would CDL training providers and motor carriers face additional 
challenges if the population of deaf and hard of hearing individuals 
seeking entry into the industry increased significantly?

Granting of Hearing Exemptions

    As noted above, the Agency has granted more than 450 hearing 
exemptions since 2012. The exemptions cover a range of circumstances 
necessitating relief from the hearing standard, from individuals with 
CDLs in need of an exemption to allow them to operate in interstate 
commerce, to individuals seeking a CDL to begin a career in the 
interstate motor carrier industry. The exemptions also cover 
individuals interested in operating CMVs for which a CDL is not 
required. If FMCSA denies the NAD petition for rulemaking, should the 
Agency continue granting exemptions, or consider limiting the 
exemptions to certain categories such as individuals intending to 
operate CMVs for which a CDL is not required, or individuals who 
already hold a CDL?

    Issued under authority delegated in 49 CFR 1.87 on: December 10, 
2019.
 Jim Mullen,
 Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2019-26942 Filed 12-13-19; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P