Power and influence

By Charlie Morasch
Staff Writer


As presidential appointments go, it didn’t make many national headlines when President Obama selected Christopher Hart to serve a term as vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Vice Chairman Hart comes to the Board after a long career in transportation safety, including a previous term as a member of the NTSB during the 1990s,” the official statement read. “He most recently was deputy director for air traffic safety oversight at the Federal Aviation Administration. He is an aerospace engineer, attorney, and a licensed pilot with commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings.”

What the announcement left out, however, may prove to be as influential as Hart’s service with the FAA.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, Hart served on its board from 1999 to 2008.

As Land Line has pointed out in a special series titled “Into the Matrix,” the National Sleep Foundation represents many sleep labs, doctors and CPAP manufacturers, and lobbies Washington players to push sleep products and lab services.

Many truckers are already aware of Dr. Barbara Phillips, past chairman of the National Sleep Foundation and former chair of the FMCSA Medical Review Board – a five-member board charged with recommending proposed medical rules for truckers.

Phillips individually pressed the board to require more truckers to undergo expensive sleep lab exams, which can cost between $2,000 and $5,000.

The Medical Review Board already has recommended that truckers with a BMI of 30 or greater undergo additional screenings, and has said it will soon consider an age cap for drivers, as the FAA has regulated.

 As Land Line reported in the spring, approximately 4,000 deaths annually involve commercial trucks (though truckers rarely are at fault in collisions involving noncommercial vehicles) while a minimum of 40,000 deaths are caused annually by medical errors.

Yet no one is calling for doctors to log their work time, have required rest periods, or be tested for sleep apnea.

You aren’t likely to see those stats in many mainstream headlines either. LL