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FMCSA Abandons Proposed Rulemaking on Sleep Apnea

truck-stopIn March of last year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) joined together to issue a pre-ruling regarding individuals with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Many in the transportation industry regarded the maneuver as the first step for an eventual list of requirements for those dealing with OSA.

As of August 4, 2017, the agencies withdrew their advanced notice of proposed rulemaking. Their reasoning is that current safety regulations are sufficient for addressing OSA and the potential fatigue risks associated with the condition. Not all within the trucking industry, including individuals managing their OSA, agree.

OSA and the No-Rule Rules

At this point in time, there is no ruling regarding OSA; however, certified medical examiners include OSA testing based on FMCSA guidelines. This means commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are at the mercy of the examiners. One certified examiner might have a stricter interpretation of moderate-to-severe OSA, while another may use less stringent guidelines. Even if all drivers with OSA did not agree with a final ruling, they would at minimum have established rules to use.

There is also the issue of discrepancies in handling OSA amongst various transportation industries. For example, the FAA does not medically disqualify or defer pilots based on BMI alone. Conversely, the FMCSA recommends that drivers with a BMI of 40 or higher should receive OSA screening. Additional recommendations include screening drivers with a BMI of 33 or higher if the individual has three other risk factors (i.e. age, loud snoring, etc.).

OSA Data Collection

As part of the pre-ruling, the FMCSA and FRA sought data regarding the pervasiveness of moderate-to-severe OSA within the transportation industries. The agencies also planned to investigate how a potential ruling would affect the economy as well as improve safety. The agencies received over 700 comments regarding this pre-ruling before rescinding their plans.

While the FMCSA and FRA stressed that OSA is an ongoing concern, neither agency provided a timetable for when they will revisit potential rulings. For now, the FMCSA recommends drivers make use of the North American Fatigue Management Program (NAFMP). The program improves driver awareness regarding factors that contribute to fatigue and affect driver performance. The program includes a module concerning the management of OSA and other sleep disorders. To learn more about managing OSA to improve transportation safety, contact the experts at Encompass.

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