Can You Drive A Truck If You Have Diabetes? Everything You Need To Know

If you want to be a trucker but you have or are at risk for diabetes, you have probably wondered, “Can you drive a truck if you have diabetes?” The short answer is yes, but there are certain regulations that you need to be aware of first. Luckily we’re here to help you navigate this complicated topic with ease.

Can You Drive A Truck If You Have Diabetes

Can You Drive a Truck If You Have Diabetes? 

The answer to “can you drive a truck if you have diabetes?” is somewhat confusing partly because of the long history of restrictions for truckers with diabetes. For many years, by US law, people were not allowed to be truck drivers if they had diabetes and needed insulin, regardless of the type of diabetes or the severity of their symptoms. This law applied both to prospective and current truck drivers, resulting in a loss of income for many truck drivers who became diabetic later in life. 

Fast forward to 2003, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) created a Diabetes Exemption program. This program allowed truck drivers with diabetes who met certain criteria to get or keep their jobs. 

The Diabetes Exemption program was a great step forward for truckers with this chronic illness, but was unfortunately somewhat ineffective. Truckers with insulin-dependent diabetes had to apply to the program by completing an application with FMCSA, a process that could take months. For people already working in the trucking industry, this process was particularly frustrating because they were not allowed to continue at their jobs while applying for the exemption, resulting in the loss of several months’ income. 

As of a year ago, the Diabetes Exemption program has ended, and the FMCSA has created a new and more effective system for granting medical certifications to truckers with diabetes.


The New Federal Laws for Truckers with Diabetes

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new laws, current and future truck drivers with insulin-dependant diabetes no longer need to apply for the FMCSA’s Diabetes Exemption program in order to be truckers. 

Instead of applying for medical certification through the FMCSA, truckers now instead visit a FMCSA-certified medical examiner. This medical examiner will work with the trucker’s physician to decide whether or not to issue a medical certificate that would allow the truck driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate traffic for up to a year. After that year, the medical certificate would need to be renewed for the truckers to keep their CDL.

So, to sum all this up, under the new federal laws, the answer to “can you drive a truck if you have diabetes” is yes. If you have diabetes and you do not need insulin, you are free and clear to begin or continue driving interstate trucks. If you are a trucker who has been diagnosed with insulin-treated diabetes, or if you are thinking about becoming a truck driver and you already have insulin-treated diabetes, you will need to obtain or renew your medical card through a FMCSA-certified medical examiner.


Diabetic Health Risks for Truckers

The good news is that the answer to “can you drive a truck if you have diabetes” is a generally positive answer for more individuals than ever before. The bad news is that truck drivers are still at very high risk for diabetes.

Compared to the national average, truckers have a 50% higher risk for developing diabetes. This is likely because many truck drivers work long hours and spend most of their on-duty time sitting down. It also can be challenging for truckers to eat healthy when you’re on the road, as they don’t necessarily know when they’ll have access to a grocery store or even a microwave. This uncertainty leads many truck drivers to live off fast or truck stop food.

Diabetes is a difficult chronic illness for everyone, but truck driving presents additional challenges for people with diabetes. In addition to the challenges of getting enough exercise and eating balanced meals, diabetic truck drivers have to deal with other potential obstacles, such as remembering to refill their medications before hitting the road and regularly testing their blood sugar levels. 

It’s crucial for truck drivers with diabetes to prioritize managing their symptoms. Certain health complications that can result from diabetes will immediately rule out truck drivers from being given medical certificates. Peripheral neuropathy is one of these diagnoses, as this condition results in the loss of sensation in the hands or feet, posing clear dangers to both the truck driver and any other vehicles on the road.

With proper management of diabetes, drivers can greatly minimize their risk of these complications developing.


Being a Trucker with Diabetes: Our Best Tips

As we have seen, the answer to “can you drive a truck if you have diabetes” is yes, so long as, if you are an insulin-dependent driver, you obtain medical certification. 

Even with your medical certification, however, being a diabetic truck driver requires extra care. It can be challenging to prioritize your chronic illness while on the road. 

While you should always consult with your physician about managing your diabetes as a trucker, here are a few ideas to help you be a successful truck driver with diabetes:

  1. Increase physical activity. Try to make time for quick exercises that don’t require much time or equipment, such as planks or crunches. Even walking around a truck stop parking lot several times is far better than sitting idle in your truck.
  2. Plan your meals ahead of time. Try to pick out places to stop during your meal times where you know there will be a grocery store or truck stop with healthier options. If possible, travel with a small cooler or fridge so that you can stock snacks such as yogurt, berries, and hummus. 
  3. Organize your medications before a trip. Don’t be caught off-guard in the middle of nowhere and realize you didn’t pack enough insulin, or that you need a refill of a medication.
  4. Find a physician or clinic who can be seen virtually. If you find a medical provider willing to see you by phone or video chat, you can receive medical advice from someone who knows your medical history even from several states away. 


We Can Help You Drive Trucks Even With Diabetes

Can you drive a truck with diabetes? If you are an insulin-treated diabetic, you can if you receive a medical certificate. Start by having your doctor fill out this form. Your doctor can then submit this form to TDI, and you will be on your way to earning your CDL.

Contact us today to see how TDI can help you learn to drive big trucks. Your chronic illness doesn’t have to mean that you can’t have a stable and exciting career on the open road.

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