Ask The Trucker

Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry


Can an Amputee Have a CDL?


I receive hundreds of emails from people all across the United States asking questions concerning CDL requirements and assistance with general help topics. It may take me a few days to answer, but I always write back. I enjoy the correspondence with other drivers and especially, the “newbies.” I recently received an email from a gentleman who asked me a question that I have never been asked before in 29 years of trucking. He was an (arm) amputee, and was having trouble with his home state issuing him a CDL. He asked for my help.

I knew what the Regulations had to say about it, but I searched on the internet and was surprised at some of the things I found. One article was written by an employer stating his amazement that an (arm) amputee would even apply for his open truck driving job. I left a comment on his site…I had to!  I would like everyone to know that an amputee, arm or leg, CAN DRIVE a semi tractor-trailer!

People just do not understand the Regulations when it comes to driving a commercial motor vehicle. Can an amputee have a CDL? YES! Can an amputee drive a semi rig? YES! Those whom I call “the foolish ones,” will point out Regulation 391.41(b), which basically states that a person cannot drive a commercial motor vehicle if they have a “loss of a foot, a leg, a hand, or an arm.” BUT, they always seem to miss the next line: except if they have “been granted a skill performance evaluation certificate pursuant to 391.49.”

 Within this section is the key for those with this physical condition: §391.49 Alternative physical qualification standards for the loss or impairment of limbs. All one needs is a Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) Certificate. This certificate shows that the person seeking a CDL can operate the commercial motor vehicle safely, and that the amputee condition does not interfere with the safe operation of the vehicle.

Several months ago I sat down at a T/A Truck Stop for dinner, and the driver next to me had ONE ARM! He had been driving that way for 16 years! So for all of you people like the above employer: understand about the subject before you write about it! And, for all you who are wondering if an amputee can have a CDL: the answer is a clear and resounding, YES!

 For the complete rules, regulations and explanation for this type of situation, read Regulation 391.49 and if you are an amputee and want to drive the big rigs . . . THEN GO FOR IT!  I’ll ride with you any day, before I ride with the above-mentioned employer!

Good Luck, and KEEP ON ‘TRUCKIN’

About the Author: Aubrey Allen Smith is an expert in motor carrier transportation and an advocate for truck driving safety. Author of the original “Truth About Trucking,” he fights for the rights of truckers by exposing the scams within the trucking industry. Please visit http://www.truthabouttrucking today, if you are considering a truck driving career.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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17 Responses to Can an Amputee Have a CDL?. - Post a Comment

  1. Robert Short

    When I was in school in Tampa a guy had only one leg. The other wooden. He finally passed but they tested him a lot harder & special tougher conditions That was the state doing that.. Don’t know if he got a job. He had also done prison due to having brandishing a gun defending himself.

  2. admin

    Hi Robert,

    Yes, they will usually have to go through stricter testing, since the the Reg’s. state that they must be qualifed to operate safely….thanks for the post.

  3. joe stevens

    I am a left hand amputee. I go for my spe on 12-5-11. I can’t wait to prove every1 wrong. Any one can do anything if they put their mind to it no matter the condition!!!!!!!

    • Michael

      I am a right arm amputee that wants to drive trucks. Everyone tries to discourage me and not wanting to help. I dont know where to start. Could u help.Ive been told so much…i need a automatic truck for school, people doesnt really hire amputees, etc.

    • Rodney

      I am a current cdl driver but having trouble finding a dr in Texas or elsewhere who will do the spe. Any advice

    • ben

      some people dont realize that physically disabled have been like that for a while(most cases) and learn how to do things even with one arm. i drive one handed all the time. its not hard to drive an automatic with a nob. a little practice and dedication and anyone can do what they put there mind to. if its difficult to get a job. work owner operator. they cant say anything. you get jobs equally to everyone else.

    • Amber Keele


      I’m not sure if you still have access to these comments, but I was wondering if you could provide me with some information. I am a Vocational Counselor, and one of my client’s lost his right arm in a farming accident. However, he is being fitted for a prosthetic and he would like to go to trucking school and become a CDL truck driver. My question is, what type of prosthetic will he need in order to drive a commercial semi tractor trailer? Are there any other types of devices or technology assistance that I could recommend if and when he is able to secure a job as a truck driver? I am aware of the requirements for the Medical Certificate and the SPE, but I am just wondering if he needs a certain “type” of prosthetic. Within the regulations it stated that the driver would need to show that he could grip/grasp and manipulate the steering wheel with each upper limb individually.


    • Allen Smith

      Here is the FMCSA website page which can help answer your questions Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate Program

    • Claudio Romero

      How did the test go for you. I am also a left leg BK amputee. I am interested in getting a CDL license but I am not familiar with the process and what it entails. I would hope to hear from you how was your experience.

  4. teresa

    How long does it take to get an s.p.e. certificate? The application packet hardly makes sense.

  5. kevin sullivan

    i have had my cdl for 10 years aad went to a doctor for a cdl phyical and this doctor failed me because have onlly two fingers on my hand that happened 35 years ago and that never happend before with any doctor, what do i do

  6. nate

    Please give a block of instruction for 391.49
    So that I can give it to proper official
    regarding an amputee I have been trying get back into the industry
    Since 1994.
    now keep in mind I have been riding a ultra classic Harley Davidson
    and yes on two wheels and the clutch is on the right side
    But I really would like my CDL back if all possible.
    I am a above the elbow amputee .please advice clear direction
    thanks in advance

  7. Dave Mullen

    My pastor has been visiting an over the road truck driver in the hospital who had to have his leg removed and He’s depressed. My pastor & I were talking & wanted to know if I knew of any drivers who had lost a leg and who are back on the road, could contact him to be some sort of an inspiration to this truck driver.
    We live in N.E Ohio.
    Thanks for any help,
    Dave Mullen

    • Allen Smith

      Yes, we know someone who will talk to him. We will get in touch.

  8. Leonard Harper

    I am paralyzed in a wheelchair buy trucking has always been a passion of mine, can anyone tell me if I can obtain my cdl? And if so does anyone know of any company that will catertome, or work with me being paralyzed in a wheelchair?

  9. Chuck Haff

    I am in trucking classes right now and have a question I’m hoping you can help me with. I have a mild case of Cerebral Palsy effecting my right side. I am struggling with the alley dock as I have to use my right hand for the steering. Can anyone offer any tips or advise on how to manage the steering with limited strength/mobility?

  10. Troy

    hello i was 17 when i lost the use of my right arm in a motorcycle accident. in 2011 i got my cdl class b in 2014 got a letter said i had to turn my cdl in cause the dmv made a mistake.they should of never gave me my cdl i even took a spe but for some reason they lost the papperwork. so in 2018 i tried to get it back been jumping thu hops. then i when and took the test n passed it. but didnt have birth cerf. with me so i went back the next day n the lady in there said. dont do it i got a message from stu turner to what ever truck you bring to fell u. so now what can i do. i still have my right arm but dont have the 70k to get muscle transplants

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