FMCSA board wants to test some truckers for sleep apnea based on BMI

| Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The FMCSA’s Medical Review Board formally recommended this week that all drivers with a body mass index of 30 or greater be tested for sleep apnea. For example, if you are 5 feet 10 inches tall and weigh 210 pounds, you would be considered obese and would have to be tested.

On Monday, April 7, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s advisory Medical Review Board finalized its Jan. 28 recommendation that CDL-holders be referred for medical testing for sleep apnea if their BMI rates were 30 or greater. Meeting minutes indicated that some board members felt the BMI issue warranted more investigation.

BMI combines a person’s height and weight to set a score. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an adult’s BMI can be calculated by dividing the person’s weight in pounds by inches squared and multiplying that number by 703. A BMI number of 30 indicates obesity, according to the BMI system. A BMI calculator is available at www.cdc.gov.

Sleep apnea occurs most often when throat muscles relax during sleep, momentarily preventing oxygen from traveling to one’s lungs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The medical review board carries no rulemaking power or authority, and transportation officials have not set any timetable for consideration of any regulation related to apnea, FMCSA spokesman Duane DeBruyne told Land Line.

“No one should be concerned that something imminent is happening,” DeBruyne said.

OOIDA’s lobbyists, however, say the medical board carries significant weight when it comes to regulatory changes.

Melissa Theriault, OOIDA’s associate director of government affairs, attends most Washington, DC-hosted medical review board meetings and said most of the advisory board’s recommendations are adopted by FMCSA.

“The Medical Review Board carries a lot of influence,” Theriault said.

OOIDA officials say the Association opposes mandatory sleep apnea testing “unless they can show a direct causal relationship between obesity, sleep apnea and highway safety,” Tom Weakley, director of operations for the OOIDA Foundation, told Land Line.

One-third of Americans were classified as obese in 2003-2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

For more information and to read the medical review board’s meeting transcript, visit: http://www.mrb.fmcsa.dot.gov/. To contact the FMCSA medical review board, call 1-800-832-5660.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer
charlie_morasch@landlinemag.com

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