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Senators question withdrawal of proposed sleep apnea rule

Letter sent to Secretary Chao asking for rationale behind decision

Posted August 25, 2017

Four U.S. senators penned a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Elaine Chao challenging a recent decision to withdraw a proposed rule to stiffen obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) requirements for commercial drivers and rail workers.

In a letter to Secretary Chao, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) requested the data used by the Department to make the decision to withdraw the prerule, along with its plan to identify and treat rail operators and commercial drivers suffering from OSA. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration withdrew a joint rulemaking entitled “Evaluation of Safety Sensitive Personnel for Moderate-to-Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea” on August 8. 2017.

The senators wrote that they “…strongly believe that DOT should immediately reconsider the decision in order to help avoid future fatigue-related tragedies.” The letter also cited the potential dangers of OSA in the transportation network. Specifically, the National Transportation Safety Board — as early as 2001 — recommended that rail operators be tested and treated for sleep disorders like OSA following a series of deadly derailments. OSA has been the probable cause in a significant number of rail and highway accidents, the senators stated.

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