The United States Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are now seeking public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating rail workers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that DOT take action to address OSA screening and treatment for transportation workers.
The joint Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is the first step as both agencies consider whether to propose requirements specifically on OSA. FRA and FMCSA will host three public listening sessions to gather input on OSA in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
“It is imperative for everyone’s safety that commercial motor vehicle drivers and train operators be fully focused and immediately responsive at all times,” says Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, in a release. “DOT strongly encourages comment from the public on how to best respond to this national health and transportation safety issue.”
FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg, says, “The sooner patients with OSA are diagnosed and treated, the sooner our rail network will be safer. Over the next 90 days, we look forward to hearing views from stakeholders about the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea, their views on diagnosis and treatment, and potential economic impacts.”
“The collection and analysis of sound data on the impact of OSA must be our immediate first step,” says FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “We call upon the public to help us better understand the prevalence of OSA among commercial truck and bus drivers, as well as the safety and economic impacts on the truck and bus industries.”
FRA is also currently working on a rule that will require certain railroads to establish fatigue management plans. In 2012, FRA partnered with the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the WFBH Education Foundation and the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to sponsor the Railroaders’ Guide to Healthy Sleep website. The site provides educational information to railroaders and their families about sleep disorders and information to improve sleep quality.
For any CMV drivers who are detected to have a respiratory dysfunction, such as OSA, FMCSA currently recommends that medical examiners refer them for further evaluation and therapy. In January 2015, FMCSA issued a bulletin to remind healthcare professionals on the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners of the current physical qualifications standard and advisory criteria concerning the respiratory system, specifically how the requirements apply to drivers that may have obstructive sleep apnea.
I am presently the Operations Manager at a Sleep Disorder Center in Pa. that is a designated testing center for a national company(PPD)that coordinates with trucking companies throughout the United States to test drivers for OSA.
We have done many tests in the last 4-5 years on drivers for a specific trucking company that has a several hubs in our area, and we have uncovered many current, and prospective drivers that are suffering from untreated OSA. Reactions from the drivers are varied. Some don’t believe they have OSA and refuse treatment, but there are others that are grateful and realize that they are, or will be driving an 18-wheeler that has a very destructive nature if it is not handled and driven properly.
I understand the complaints and reactions from the CMV drivers that undergo this testing, or are required to complete Maintenance Wakefulness Testing(MWT)yearly to retain their DOT or CDL license, but they must understand the nature of their business and the impacts that OSA can have on them while driving, and the unfortunate outcomes it can produce for the many others traveling the roads with them. Everyday, you read something in the paper about an accident involving a truck, plane, train or boat that has caused the unnecessary loss of many lives, and usually it has been determined that OSA may have been the cause.
What I explain to the drivers that come through my center is that because they work in the industry that they do, and the type of equipment they operate on a daily basis, they are going to be focused on more due to the amount of lives that can be affected and lost quickly by their inability to stay awake due to their possible or current OSA issue.
For this reason alone, I believe it is necessary that we continue testing all those working in the transportation industry, but inevitably we need make sure that the proposed testing guidelines that are presently being discussed are fair to all those in the industry whom it will affect.
I believe if it is approached and handled correctly, and the appropriate education is provided on the affects of untreated OSA, most of those working in the industry will be more than willing to acquire testing on their own, as I am sure they will then understand the need to provide a safe environment for not only themselves, but those travelling with, and around them.
Just my thoughts……..
I appreciate Mr. Troutmans position. But lets take this one step further. Not just the commercial drivers, all drivers truck or car should be given the MWT that have been diagnosed with OSA. Dead is dead no matter if a trucker falls asleep or a car driver falls asleep and collides with you head on. If your going to do this testing be fair straight across the board.