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House and Senate bills seek to revive sleep apnea rule

Accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers injure Illinois road users each year, and road safety advocacy groups have long called for government regulators to establish more rigorous sleep apnea testing to combat the problem. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a rule change that would mandate testing for drivers in categories likely to develop the condition, but the agency announced in August that the proposal had been withdrawn.

Industry groups opposed the measure because the tests performed to screen for obstructive sleep apnea are expensive, and they also questioned the constitutionality of mandatory testing. However, bills have been submitted in both the House of Representatives and Senate calling on the FMCSA to revive the proposed rule change. The agency says that it abandoned efforts to introduce stricter sleep apnea testing standards when sessions held to discuss the proposal and comments submitted by the public in response to it failed to provide the information needed to move forward.

The lawmakers behind the bills say that a final sleep apnea rule would clarify matters for truck drivers, their employers and the public. Medical examiners currently rely on several protocols to help them make sleep apnea referrals, and supporters of the legislation say that this can lead to testing protocols that are either too severe or too lax. The situation is particularly concerning to lawmakers because sleep apnea is strongly linked with obesity and truck drivers often put on weight due to the nature of their work.

Experienced personal injury attorneys often file lawsuits against truck drivers when accidents have been caused by fatigue, but this kind of litigation may also be initiated against trucking companies who were or should have been aware of,medical conditions that could place the public in danger. Employers could also face lawsuits when big rig accidents are caused by inadequate maintenance.

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