FMCSA announces withdrawal of sleep apnea rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced that a proposed rule that would require some truck drivers in Pennsylvania and around the country to undergo mandatory sleep apnea testing will be withdrawn on August 7. The rule was originally proposed to clear up ambiguity about when truck drivers with a high risk of developing the debilitating sleep disorder should be tested. The withdrawal of the proposal means that these decisions will continue to be left to medical professionals, carriers and truck drivers.

While road safety advocates may have supported the FMCSA’s proposed sleep apnea testing rule, some industry groups were opposed. A survey published in 2016 by a leading trade publication suggested that the proposed rule would result in about 40 percent of the nation’s truck drivers being tested. The Department of Transportation spent a great deal of time working on new sleep apnea testing standards in 2016. Interested parties were encouraged to attend listening sessions held in various parts of the country, and the matter was also discussed by the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board and Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.

The resulting proposal would have required all truck drivers with a body mass index of 40 or higher to be tested for sleep apnea. Testing would also have been mandatory for drivers in certain high-risk categories with BMIs of between 33 and 39. Truck drivers and logistics companies have claimed that implementation of the rule would have resulted in a wave of expensive and unnecessary testing.

The thought of a semi-tractor trailer traveling at highway speeds with a drowsy or sleeping driver behind the wheel is an unnerving one for motorists. When fatigue is suspected, personal injury attorneys with experience in truck accident cases may study crash reports closely for indications that the drivers involved suffered from known medical issues or federal hours of service rules could have been ignored.