Plans to screen truck drivers, train engineers for sleep apnea scrapped

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Two federal agencies are no longer pursuing legislation that would require sleep apnea screenings for truck drivers and train engineers.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced last week those plans have been scrapped. It’s a move the Trump administration hopes can bolster economic growth by eliminating federal regulations.

Obstructive sleep apnea has been blamed on deadly rail crashes in New York City and New Jersey as well as crashes on the highway.

The agencies say it should be up to railroads and trucking companies to decide whether to test employees.

Without a regulation mandating testing, regulators can not cite truck companies or railroads if a truck or train crashes because the operator fell asleep.

“We’re very much opposed to mandates from FMCSA and we saw this as another mandate,” said Kevin Stewart, President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association. “I think it would have hurt the industry because many times those drivers are paying for those additional exams, those sleep studies, out of pocket. I think it would discourage more drivers from getting involved in the industry.”

A 2009 study by the National Institute of Health found that people with obstructive sleep apnea are “clearly at increased risk for crash.”

“Sleep apnea can impair your ability to drive during the day,” said Dr. Peter Kang with AllBetterCare Urgent Care Center. “For any professional drivers who have sleep apnea, I recommend you see your regular physicians, have a sleep study done, and to talk to your regular doctor about having treatment for sleep apnea.”

Sleep apnea is believed to affect about one in ten people and is becoming more common.

 

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