Epilepsy and Commercial Truck Drivers

Driving a commercial vehicle in Ontario requires a special class of licence as well as routine medical reviews.

For more information about classifications of vehicles and licences, you can refer to this chart by the Ministry of Transportation.

For drivers with certain medical conditions there are criteria that need to be met in order to be considered fit to drive. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) has determined that commercial drivers with epilepsy are generally eligible for a licence if they have not had a seizure, with or without medication, for 5 years and the conditions for maintaining a licence are met:

  • The driver routinely follows treatment regime and physician’s advice regarding prevention of seizures
  • The drive will cease driving and report to authority and physician if a seizure occurs

You can refer to Chapter 17: Seizures and Epilepsy in the CCMTA’s guide on Determining Driver Fitness in Canada (2015 edition) for more details.

Driving a commercial motor vehicle in the United States

If you’re a licenced commercial truck driver who has epilepsy, or a history of epilepsy, it’s likely that you have received a license with a “W” code on it which now prevents you from driving a commercial motor vehicle in the United States.

“W” codes (defined as “restricted commercial class – Canada only”) have been put into place in order to achieve reciprocity in the Canadian-American Medical Reciprocity Agreement for Commercial Drivers. Similarly, American drivers who are disqualified from driving in Canada have been issued a “V” code on their licence.

The reasons for these codes have to do with Canadian and American medical standards for drivers. Canada and the US have deemed those standards to be equal except for several conditions, which are now the criteria for an assignment of the W code. Epilepsy is one of these conditions that disqualify you from driving in the US, along with hearing impairments, monocular vision, and insulin-dependent diabetes.

A detailed page describing the qualifications of commercial drivers in the US can be found here. The portion concerning epilepsy can be found in section 8 and is as follows: “[a person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person] has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of epilepsy or any other condition which is likely to cause loss of consciousness or any loss of ability to control a commercial motor vehicle”.

In the United States, several commercial drivers who have been seizure-free have applied for an exemption to this. You can find more information about this here.

Click here to learn more about living with epilepsy.