The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has withdrawn their final rulemaking on obstructive sleep apnea, reflecting a recent change in the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) priorities.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
The FMCSA defines obstructive sleep apnea as when someone temporarily stops breathing while they’re sleeping. The narrowing of the airway causes a momentary halt in breathing. The concern with sleep apnea and truck drivers is that if left untreated, sleep apnea can contribute to fatigue-related crashes as tired drivers may suffer from reduced concentration, delayed reaction times, and other health issues.
The FMCSA and the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations sponsored a study by the University of Pennsylvania that found “28% of commercial truck drivers have have mild to severe sleep apnea.” That’s almost 1 in 3 truck drivers!
The Proposed Final Rule
Last year, two of FMCSA’s advisory committees provided recommendations on how medical examiners should assess the severity of a patient’s sleep apnea and the criteria they should use to determine if a driver’s sleep apnea affects their ability to operate a CMV. Below is a list of some of the recommendations:
- Truck drivers with a BMI of 33 or more who had three other risk factors would have to be screened for sleep apnea. They would receive a 90-day medical certification and would have to participate in a sleep test.
- Truck drivers with a BMI of 40 or more would also receive the 90-day certification and have to participate in a sleep test.
- Risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Other recommendations were related to when medical examiners should disqualify drivers who they deem unfit to drive due to sleep apnea, and sent for a sleep test. Reasons for disqualification included falling asleep behind the wheel, or being involved in a crash due to falling asleep. Drivers would be screened for sleep apnea every two years during their CDL medical exam.
The Proposed Final Rule is Withdrawn
Sleep Review notes that the FMCSA has withdrawn the rule because they felt that there was “not enough information available to support moving forward with a rulemaking action and so the rulemaking will be withdrawn.”
Although the rule has been withdrawn, the FMCSA does note that moderate to severe sleep apnea should disqualify a driver from being allowed to operate a CMV. However, disqualified drivers who have successfully treated their sleep apnea, could “regain their ‘medically-qualified-to-drive’ status”.
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