Three medical groups have followed the lead of head Democrat Chuck Schumer, denouncing the transportation agencies withdrawal of the sleep apnea rule.
Early in August, Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked the U.S. DOT to “immediately reverse course” on it’s recent decision to withdraw a rule requiring sleep apnea screening for truckers and railway operators. He said that the DOT’s decision to withdraw the rule “commemorates a disaster waiting to happen.”
“It’s high time to move forward with making sleep apnea testing a federal requirement; no ifs, and or buts about it,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement to the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA). “We don’t want big rig drivers to doze off at the wheel.”
Three medical professional groups joined Chuck Schumer in expressing their disapproval over the FMCSA’s and the Federal Railroad Association’s (FRA) Aug.4 decision to withdraw the sleep apnea rule.
The rule, which was formally scrapped, would have positioned criteria for medical examiners to determine which drivers should be referred for sleep apnea testing. If necessary an examiner could require testing and treatment prior to issuing a medical certification.
After the withdrawal, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the American Thoracic Society issued statements asking the agencies to “take alternative steps to improve sleep apnea screening among individuals occupying safety-sensitive positions in highway and rail transportation.”
In March 2016 the FMCSA and the FRA released a joint advance notice of rulemaking to address truck and train incidents where obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a factor as determined by the National Transportation Safety Board. The concept was to collect information and look at the costs and benefits of any regulations, such as requiring evaluation and treatment for operators with multiple OSA risk factors determined by a sleep disorders expert.
The University of California, San Francisco conducted a recent study which found that 41 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers could have OSA, a condition that creates a blockage of airways, interrupting normal breathing, which may lead to increased drowsiness, causing drivers to be less alert and reactive.
A University of Minnesota, Morris study in March of 2016 determined that drivers who fail to follow their prescribed treatment for OSA are five times more likely to be involved in a truck crash than those without OSA.
An estimated 22 million people in the U.S. are affected by sleep apnea. Of those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, 80 percent go undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Dr. David Gozal, former president of the American Thoracic Society and a sleep research expert said in an Aug.10 statement, “By withdrawing this rule under the guise of reducing regulatory burdens, our nations highways and rail systems are less safe and less reliable for all. We strongly urge the administration to reconsider its decision and to move forward with the rulemaking process.”
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