A bill that would prevent the FMCSA from using an informal guidance to introduce sleep apnea screening requirements for professional drivers, has been passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
FMCSA responded that it will follow the action: “FMCSA will issue a notice to address obstructive sleep apnea through the formal rulemaking process after collecting and analyzing the necessary data and research,” the agency said in a statement.
The US trucking industry was concerned that the FMCSA would issue a guidance, rather than follow the appropriate rulemaking process, in order to expedite a screening requirement.
“ATA believes that testing alone for obstructive sleep apnea of truck drivers could cost the industry nearly $1 billion,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “If our industry is to be burdened with such a cost, then the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration owes it to trucking to conduct a full and thorough rulemaking, including collection of scientific data and a cost-benefit analysis.”
Last week, both the ATA and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) joined in supporting legislation that will require the US government to follow the established rulemaking process when introducing regulations to screen commercial drivers for sleep apnea.
The legislation was necessary, according to ATA, because the FMCSA had indicated it may pursue a guidance, rather than the conventional rulemaking process, to bring a sleep apnea screening rule in more quickly. Doing so, however, would not provide the medical community, industry or drivers, with sufficient opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation.
Graves said a sleep apnea screening rule will have a major impact on the industry.
“This is not an insignificant step,” he said. “There are more than three million professional truck drivers (in the US) and the cost of screening, diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea could easily exceed $1 billion annually. Taking a step as potentially costly as that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly and outside of the normal processes.”