Truckers encouraged to give their two cents on sleep apnea proposal

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Wednesday, March 09, 2016

While the current proposal by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association and Federal Railroad Administration doesn’t impose any new regulations regarding sleep apnea, the agencies suggest future regulatory action may be necessary.

“Based on the potential severity of obstructive sleep apnea-related transportation incidents and accidents and the varied, non-regulatory OSA-related actions taken by the department’s operating administrations to date, the agencies are considering taking regulatory action to ensure consistency in addressing the safety issue presented by transportation workers with safety sensitive duties who are at risk for OSA,” the agencies said in the advanced notice of proposed rulemaking.

The FMCSA and FRA are requesting comments regarding 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. The agencies are expected to open a 90-day comment period on Thursday, March 10.

Comments can be based on the 20 questions provided in the notice.

Examples of the questions include:

  • Is there information available for estimating the future consequences resulting from individuals with sleep apnea occupying safety sensitive transportation positions in the absence of new restrictions?
  • What alternative forms and degrees of restriction could FMCSA and FRA place on the performance of safety-sensitive duties by transportation workers with moderate-to-severe sleep apnea, and how effective would these restrictions be in improving transportation safety?
  • What costs would be imposed on transportation workers with safety sensitive duties by requiring screening, evaluation and treatment of sleep apnea?
  • When and how frequently should transportation workers with safety sensitive duties be screened for sleep apnea? What methods of diagnosing sleep apnea are appropriate and why?
  • Should medical examiners impose restrictions on a transportation worker with safety sensitive duties who self reports experiencing excessive sleepiness while performing safety sensitive duties?

According to research on sleep apnea published by FMCSA and authored by Dr. Allan Pack of the University of Pennsylvania, “There is no statistical evidence in these data to suggest that the presence of sleep apnea significantly increases the likelihood or the risk of motor vehicle crashes.”

In addition, the percentage of large truck crashes related to drowsiness, falling asleep at the wheel and or fatigue has been consistently low. According to Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts 2013, only 1.5 percent of all fatal crashes were linked to drivers being asleep or fatigued. The fatigue statistics did not break down contributing factors to the fatigue.

To submit your comment online, go to Regulations.Gov, type the docket number FMCSA-2015-0419 in the “keyword” box and click “search.” When the new screen appears, click the “comment now” button and type your comment into the text box in the following screen.

Comments may also be mailed to Docket Services, U.S. Department of Transportation, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Comments can be filed anonymously.

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