Sleep apnea testing for drivers new to the DOT regulatory agenda

May lead to new rules for highway and railroad workers

Posted October 20, 2015

The FMCSA is taking steps to determine if new rules concerning sleep apnea are needed. The agency is teaming with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the fact-gathering process, and any new rules that develop could apply to both highway and railroad workers.

According to the agenda, FMCSA and FRA request data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in rail and highway transportation. The agencies also request information about the potential economic impact and safety benefits associated with regulatory actions that would result in transportation workers in these positions, who exhibit multiple risk factors for OSA, undergoing evaluation by a healthcare professional with expertise in sleep disorders, and subsequent treatment.

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes brief interruptions to breathing during sleep and can lead to daytime drowsiness. Studies suggest that almost one-third of commercial drivers may suffer from sleep apnea.

Under FMCSA medical standards for commercial drivers, untreated sleep apnea is considered a respiratory dysfunction that can prevent a driver from being medically certified. In a January 2015 memo, the agency recommended that drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea be referred to a specialist if the medical examiner believes the driver’s condition “is in any way likely to interfere with the driver’s ability to safely control and drive a commercial motor vehicle.”

The expected publication date for the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is December 11, 2015.

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