Legislation sought to combat shortcut for sleep apnea testing

There is no arguing that accidents that involve large trucks such as 18-wheelers can have catastrophic consequences. Drivers of big rigs have many regulations they must follow in hopes of preventing truck accidents. Although no one argues that these regulations should be in place, some in the trucking industry do not want regulatory agencies to have complete authority in making rules regarding the trucking industry. Our Houston and Harris County readers may be interested in a recent issue that has culminated in legislation being proposed to combat an agency that wants to take shortcuts regarding possible driver medical conditions.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA) is reporting that research has indicated that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea are more prone to be involved in truck accidents. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder where a person stops breathing while they sleep. This can happen up to 400 times a night, and the period of not breathing can last up to 10 seconds. Also according to the FMCSA, drivers with untreated sleep apnea did worse on performance testing than drivers who were over the legal alcohol consumption limit. The FMCSA goes on to state that 28 percent of commercial vehicle drivers have sleep apnea.

Two legislators, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Illinois, are proposing legislation to keep the FMCSA from skipping the traditional federal regulatory process for having drivers tested for sleep apnea. The organization has previously proposed that drivers over a certain body mass index (BMI) automatically be tested for sleep apnea, or that those who have it forego the less expensive treatments and purchase expensive sleep machines to treat their condition. The proposed legislation wants to prevent the FMCSA from taking shortcuts when it comes to setting the standards for testing and screening drivers for sleep apnea, as well as for treatment. In addition, the legislatures want sleep apnea addressed through the traditional rulemaking process instead of the FMCSA trying to quickly pass a screening rule.

The proposed legislation has the backing of many in the commercial vehicle industry, including the Owner-Operators Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), the American Trucking Association, the American Bus Association and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Victims of such accidents tend to have serious injuries, and there are high fatality rates with truck accidents. In addition, these accidents can result in trucking companies and their insurance carriers forced to pay medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and a host of other costs relating to an accident involving one of their drivers.

Source:, "Legislation would prevent shortcuts setting sleep apnea regs" Deborah Whistler, Sep. 15, 2013

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