Feds toy with sleep apnea regulation, seek comments

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 3/8/2016

A federal proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association and Federal Railroad Administration could lead to commercial drivers and railroad workers being required to undergo evaluation and treatment for sleep apnea.

The two agencies will open a 90-day comment period about the subject in the coming days. The FMCSA and FRA remain in the discovery phase of the rulemaking process and are requesting data and information concerning the impact of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea on the safety of highway and rail transportation.

Specifically, the agencies requested comment via an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on the costs and benefits of requiring motor carrier and rail transportation workers who exhibit multiple risk factors for sleep apnea to undergo evaluation and treatment by a health care professional with expertise in sleep disorders.

It is important to note that the current proposal does not impose any new regulation. The advance notice could prove to be a precursor to a proposed rule.

The 90-day comment period will include three public listening sessions in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The FMCSA has previously faced resistance in its attempt to regulate sleep apnea. A 2013 law prohibits the FMCSA from implementing or enforcing requirements on sleep apnea without going through a formal rulemaking process.

Instead, the FMCSA has issued guidelines regarding the condition.

Many truck drivers have told OOIDA that their medical examiners have ordered sleep tests based on a driver’s weight, body-mass index, neck size, overbite, snoring and other criteria.

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