Sleep Apnea Rule Will Require More Research
U.S. President Obama signed a bill this week stating that any changes in federal requirements for handling truck driver sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, must come through the rulemaking process, rather than guidance to medical examiners.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has traditionally used a “guidance” to for examiners trying to spot drivers with a sleep disorder.
The agency, reports Heavy Duty Trucking, has been working on a more robust guidance that reflects the better understanding of obstructive sleep apnea in particular.
That work will be included in any future mandate, but the legislative route passed requires the agency do conducted more research on a much broader range of issues, such as a cost-benefit analysis.
Sean Garney, manager of safety policy at American Trucking Associations, tells HDT this will require the agency to estimate the number of drivers who would be affected by the rule, the percentage of crashes in which sleep apnea is a factor and the percentage that would be affected by treatment of apnea.
“Also, the agency will have to look at the costs and effectiveness of testing and treatment, as well as the ‘discouragement factor’ – the extent to which a rule would discourage drivers from coming into the industry, or staying in it.”
Trucking managers want a clear message from the government about their handling of sleep apnea, says Garney. “Carriers need a rule so their risks are spelled out in legal terms.”
Any motor carrier would be well advised to have some kind of screening program, carrier executives tell HDT, whether they do it in-house or employ a third-party.
In anticipation of a sleep apnea screening rule in both Canada and the U.S., the Canadian Trucking Alliance, in partnership with OSA Canada Inc., last year launched a first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada to deliver a full service sleep apnea program to commercial truck drivers.
FMCSA has said only that it will issue a notice to address sleep apnea through a rulemaking “after collecting and analyzing the necessary data and research.”
The agency has not said when it expects to post a proposal.