The American Trucking Association, OOIDA, American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach Association, the National School Transportation Association and the United Brotherhood of Teamsters have all come out in support of a bill introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon,R-Ind., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., that would require the FMCSA to write a rule covering sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, rather than simply issuing a guidance.
The FMCSA originally planned to only issue a guidance governing sleep disorders. The bill would require the FMCSA to issue a rule, which would force the agency to go go though a normal, established regulatory process, such as allowing medical experts, professional drivers, carriers and others to provide input and feedback on the proposed rule.
“A formal rulemaking will also require an analysis of the benefits and costs of regulating sleep apnea, an analysis not required for the issuance of guidance,” ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said.
FMCSA officials have indicated they intend to issue guidance as a means of quickly addressing sleep apnea in the professional driver population.
“This is not an insignificant step,” Graves said. “There are more than 3 million professional truck drivers and the cost of screening, diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea could easily exceed $1 billion annually. Taking a step as potentially costly as that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly and outside of the normal processes.”
In 2011, the FMCSA and the Medical Review Board recommended truckers with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher, be tested for sleep apnea. According to the FMCSA, up to 28 percent of all U.S. CDL holders have sleep apnea. The FMCSA wants drivers with sleep apnea to be required to use continuous postitive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
The agency has for years been working on updating its guidance to medical examiners regarding sleep disorders. Among other things, the pending guidance could tell examiners that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more must be evaluated for sleep apnea.