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Truckers and sleep disorders: proposal calls for formal rules

Research on sleep, and sleep disorders in particular, has exploded in recent years. Scientists are finding out more all the time about what affects sleep. And yet there remain many aspects of how and why people sleep - or don't sleep - that remain deeply mysterious.

The growing body of sleep research has shown just how common sleep disorders can be. At the same time, however, other research has shown just how dangerous driving without getting enough sleep can be. Drowsy driving, this research shows, is as bad as drunk driving.

What types of rules are appropriate, then, for truckers regarding sleep disorders? After all, in Texas and across the nation, federal rules should seek to prevent undue risk of truck accidents caused by fatigued driving.

Two U.S. Representatives have proposed a bill in Congress that would direct a key federal safety agency to draft a specific regulation to address sleep disorders. The bill would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to initiate a formal rulemaking process to cover sleep apnea and other sleep disorders experienced by truckers.

FMCSA has long been aware of the sleep disorder issue. But so far it has tried to address the issue mainly through guidance to medical examiners who screen truck drivers.

The agency is currently considering providing more detailed guidance to examiners about sleep apnea. For example, the guidance could say that drivers with a body mass index over a certain threshold should receive a sleep apnea evaluation.

Curiously, many voices in the trucking industry are pushing for clearer rules on sleep disorders. Because sleep apnea, in particular, is such a common problem, the trucking industry wants more clarity on what responsibilities it has to screen for and treat it.

 

Source: Truckinginfo, "Bill Challenges FMCSA to Write Sleep Disorder Rule," Oliver Patton, September 12, 2013

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