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Proposed FMCSA sleep apnea testing rule gets a mixed response

In March 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a regulatory change that would require truck drivers and certain railroad workers in Illinois and around the country to undergo obstructive sleep apnea testing. The public was given until July 8 to submit feedback about the proposed rule, and 593 comments were subsequently received. While many of these comments supported the measure, some people questioned the costs involved.

Studies indicate that as many a 28 percent of semi-tractor trailer drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Sufferers are often unable to sleep through the night due to interruptions caused by partial or complete blockages of their upper airways. This can lead to elevated levels of fatigue the following day. Catastrophic accidents often occur when truck drivers or railroad workers fall asleep while on the job. The FMCSA and FRA proposed rule would require transportation workers who perform safety-sensitive duties to be tested for the debilitating condition.

Many of the people who submitted comments about the proposed rule conceded that fatigue was a serious problem in the transportation sector, but they voiced concerns about the cost of the tests and wondered who would be responsible for paying these bills. Others said that the tests for obstructive sleep apnea can be very difficult to pass and claimed that the proposal would make doctors richer but do little to improve road safety.

Truck drivers who cause accidents after falling asleep behind the wheel may face civil lawsuits, but culpability is generally not considered when workers' compensation decisions are made. An attorney could help make sure that the victim of a workplace accident receives financial support.

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