WASHINGTON, DC – While the government shutdown took center stage on Capitol Hill, President Obama quietly signed a bill ensuring that any changes in federal requirements for truck driver sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, must come through the rulemaking process, rather than guidance to medical examiners.
As reported by TruckingInfo.com, the legislative approach is a distinction with a difference. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) traditionally has relied on guidance, but the industry-favored rulemaking process requires more research, including a cost-benefit analysis.
According to Sean Garney, manager of safety policy at American Trucking Associations, rulemaking will require the FMCSA to estimate the number of drivers who would be affected by the rule, the percentage of crashes in which sleep apnea is a factor, and the percentage that would be affected by treatment of apnea.
Trucking industry reporter Oliver Patton reports that the agency will have to look at the cost and effectiveness of testing and treatment, as well as the “discouragement factor”–the extent to which a rule would discourage drivers from coming into the industry, or staying in it, Garney said. “There’s just a lot that they’re going to have to study in order to understand the real impacts on the industry,” he said.
ATA estimates that a sleep apnea rule will cost the industry more than $1 billion a year, which is one reason why it pushed Congress to pass the bill that Obama signed last week.