The trucking industry does not want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to use “informal guidance” to address sleep apnea. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed, quickly approving a bill that would instead require “rulemaking.”
“ATA [American Trucking Association] believes that testing alone for obstructive sleep apnea of truck drivers could cost the industry nearly $1 billion,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. “If our industry is to be burdened with such a cost, then the FMCSA owes it to trucking to conduct a full and thorough rulemaking, including collection of scientific data and a cost-benefit analysis.”
The bill, introduced by Reps Larry Bucshon (R-Ind) and Dan Lipinski (D – Ill) reportedly has broad bipartisan support, already garnering nearly 50 cosponsors. “While FMCSA has said they are receptive to a rulemaking process in lieu of sleep apnea guidance, we urge the House and Senate to follow through with swift approval of HR 3095,” said Graves.
“FMCSA will issue a notice to address obstructive sleep apnea through the formal rulemaking process after collecting and analyzing the necessary data and research,” the agency said in a statement. The statement does not address the broader issue of sleep disorders.
According to a report in TruckingInfo.com, the FMCSA proposed tougher standards for sleep apnea evaluation last year. The proposed guidance in 2012 mandated that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more must be evaluated for sleep apnea. The advisory committees supported the “guidance” approach but saw it as an interim step toward a comprehensive rule.
“Trucking interests have registered deep concern about the use of a guidance, and have been pushing for the rulemaking approach,” writes Oliver Patton in TruckingInfo. “They worry that the guidance will not give employers a clear enough statement of their legal responsibilities.”
Don Osterberg, senior vice president of Safety, Security and Driver Training for Schneider National, reportedly told Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari that a guidance has the effect of putting trucking companies in a tight legal spot. “It puts motor carriers in a situation where we can pick our lawsuit,” he said.