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Senate passes sleep apnea bill for truck drivers

November 16, 2013 by Steven M. Gursten

The Senate has recently passed a bill that that would compel the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to create new regulations addressing dangerous sleep disorders common among many truck drivers — including sleep apnea.  This is a change that would create a safety regulation rather than just issuing guidance for the commercial transportation industry and drivers, according to a recent story by Bloomberg News.

H.R. 3095 was cleared by unanimous consent after the House passed it by a 405-0 vote Sept. 26, Bloomberg reported. Now the bill that has been sent to President Obama for his signature.

Under the proposed bill, the FMSCA would be blocked from implementing or enforcing any regulations on sleep disorders of commercial truck drivers that are not adopted in a rule making process.

Traditionally, the FMCSA has approached the issue by proposing nonbinding “guidance” to doctors on how to detect and treat sleep disorders among truck drivers. Critics of the status quo – including many safety advocates and our own truck attorneys who see from real tragedies caused by truck drivers with sleeping disorders – have scrutinized the FMSCA’s effort to ensure that truck drivers don’t suffer from excessive fatigue as a consequence of sleep disorders for quite some time now.

As an experienced truck accident attorney, I’m very familiar with just how dangerous a tired truck driver suffering from sleep apnea can be. The dangers of truck drivers who are dangerously overweight with obstructive sleep apnea aren’t hypothetical. They are real. And there are tens of thousands of  truck drivers driving tractor trailers on our roads today with serious medical conditions who are on strong narcotic medications.  Most of these drivers should not be on the roads.

Consider the statistics:

  • Overweight truck drivers account for 13 percent of fatal truck accidents, according to a story in the New York Times on the truck drivers’ diet related to driving safety.
  • As much as 30 percent of American truck drivers are believed to have sleep apnea, according to NPR.
  • 86% of the estimated 3.2 million truck drivers in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to a 2007 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

The good news is the bill the bill has garnered a great deal of bipartisan support.
The measure is also supported by the American Trucking Associations, which said a rule that could have required overweight or obese drivers to be tested for sleep apnea would cost the industry about $1 billion.

Related information:

Why trucking companies must aggressively screen truck drivers for sleep apnea

If truckers were healthier, there might be fewer truck accidents

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