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  • Henry Seaton

FMCSA seeks info on drivers and sleep apnea

In a joint action with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is seeking public input on how screening, evaluating and treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) would affect commercial motor vehicle drivers. Comments are due in 90 days.

The joint advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) is the first step in evaluating whether the agencies will propose requirements regarding OSA. In addition to requests in writing, FMCSA and FRA plan to hold public listening sessions in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles. OSA is a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. Undiagnosed or inadequately treated moderate-to-severe OSA can cause unintended sleep episodes and deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, memory, and the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive service, the agencies said. According to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, eight hours of sleep for people with OSA can be less refreshing than four hours of ordinary, uninterrupted sleep. “The collection and analysis of sound data on the impact of OSA must be our immediate first step,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “We call upon the public to help us better understand the prevalence of OSA among commercial truck and bus drivers, as well as the safety and economic impacts on the truck and bus industries.”

FMCSA currently recommends that medical examiners refer any CMV drivers who are detected to have a respiratory dysfunction, such as OSA, for further evaluation and therapy. A January 2015 FMCSA bulletin to healthcare professionals on the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners outlined the current physical qualifications standard and advisory criteria concerning the respiratory system, specifically how the requirements apply to drivers that may have OSA.

The agency has taken other steps in the past toward monitoring OSA more closely. In April 2012, it published as proposed guidance the joint recommendations on OSA issued by the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board.

Just a week later, however, FMCSA published a notice withdrawing the proposed guidance, saying that it needed more time to review the MSAC/MRB recommendations and that the publication resulted from a clerical error.

For a copy of the ANPRM, click here.

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