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U.S. lawmakers call out medical trainers for pushing apnea tests for truckers

By David Tanner, senior editor

Some organizations that train certified medical examiners are skirting the law by telling examiners to test truckers for sleep apnea, a pair of U.S. representatives stated in a letter to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in early October.

U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., refer to HR3095, a bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in October 2013. It prohibits the FMCSA from implementing or enforcing the screening, testing or treatment of sleep disorders for truck and bus drivers without going through a formal rulemaking and public comment process.

The lawmakers say the language is crystal clear.

“It has come to my attention, however, that organizations that provide training for certified medical examiners are circumventing HR3095,” the lawmakers stated in their letter to acting FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling.

“Specifically, the instructions they are providing clearly indicate that examiners should follow the obstructive sleep apnea guidance originally published by FMCSA on April 20, 2012 (and subsequently rescinded on April 27, 2012).”

The FMCSA’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners went live on May 21 of this year, requiring truckers to obtain their driver physicals and medical cards from a certified examiner.

Drivers have told OOIDA’s regulatory team that their medical examiners are ordering sleep tests based on criteria that are not listed in any regulations.

Bucshon and Lipinski point out that some medical training organizations are associated with sleep labs. A company called REM Sleep Labs out of Southern California provides “DOT Guidelines for sleep apnea,” and it instructs examiners to order sleep tests based on a driver’s weight, body-mass index, neck size, overbite, snoring and other criteria.

The lawmakers say the FMCSA has a responsibility to fully vet the organizations that train the examiners to make sure they follow the directive of Congress.

Bucshon and Lipinski are urging the FMCSA to correct the problem by removing sleep apnea language from any training materials and communicating the correct instructions from HR3095 to all training organizations.

In early June of this year, the FMCSA announced that the administration intends to pursue a formal rulemaking on sleep apnea regulations somewhere down the line. LL