What keeps truckers awake at night? Lately, the prospect of federal “guidance” on sleep apnea testing and treatment for truck drivers.
Independent truck drivers added their voice to those demanding federal regulators conduct a rulemaking, rather than issue guidance, on sleep apnea testing for truck drivers.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is backing a bill introduced yesterday by Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., that would require a rulemaking and full industry cost analysis for such tests.
The OOIDA joins groups including the American Trucking Associations and International Brotherhood of Teamsters that favor a formal rulemaking on the chronic health condition.
“The best policy is for the (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) to use the rulemaking process already in place rather than side-stepping it,” said OOIDA Executive Vice President Todd Spencer.
“With the potential cost to trucking running north of $1 billion without the proven safety improvement, guidance is not a practice we can support,” Spencer said in a statement Friday.
“ATA believes that if the (FMCSA) wants to regulate sleep apnea, it should do so through the normal, established regulatory process rather than through informal guidance,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves.
Obstructive sleep apnea, a common and chronic disorder that disrupts sleep and may contribute to on-the-job fatigue, has been studied by the FMCSA for more than a decade.
According to a 2002 study cited by the FMCSA on its Web site, as many as 28 percent of commercial drivers license holders may have sleep apnea that could contribute to daytime drowsiness.
Under current rules, state medical examiners can disqualify drivers with moderate to severe apnea. The FMCSA has been developing guidance for state medical examiners on whom to test for sleep apnea and how to do so.
Trucking groups want a say in that process, not just guidance, and believe the formal rulemaking process is the right route for the FMCSA.
“The rulemaking process allows for medical experts, the regulated community, including professional drivers, to provide valuable data and input,” Graves said.
“Anything FMCSA does regarding sleep apnea should absolutely consider the costs such a policy will pass on to truckers, especially more experienced and safer drivers,” Spencer said.