WASHINGTON, D.C. — Both the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) are supporting new legislation that will require the US government to follow the established rulemaking process when introducing regulations to screen commercial drivers for sleep apnea.
The legislation was necessary, according to ATA, because the FMCSA had indicated it may pursue a guidance, rather than the conventional rulemaking process, to bring a sleep apnea screening rule in more quickly. Doing so, however, would not provide the medical community, industry or drivers, with sufficient opportunity to comment on the proposed legislation.
“ATA believes that if the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to regulate sleep apnea, it should do so through the normal, established regulatory process rather than through informal guidance,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves. “The rulemaking process allows for medical experts, the regulated community, including professional drivers, to provide valuable data and input for the agency to consider in developing its regulations. A formal rulemaking will also require an analysis of the benefits and costs of regulating sleep apnea, an analysis not required for the issuance of guidance.”
Graves said a sleep apnea screening rule will have a major impact on the industry.
“This is not an insignificant step,” he said. “There are more than three million professional truck drivers (in the US) and the cost of screening, diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea could easily exceed $1 billion annually. Taking a step as potentially costly as that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly and outside of the normal processes.”
OOIDA sided with ATA on this issue.
“The best policy is for the agency to use the rulemaking process already in place rather than side-stepping it,” said OOIDA executive vice-president Todd Spencer. “With the potential cost to trucking running north of $1 billion without the proven safety improvement, guidance is not a practice we can support.”
OOIDA’s position is that any truck driver who has symptoms or signs of sleep apnea should seek the advice of their own primary care physician. It is opposed to suggested mandates that require testing solely based on Body Mass Index (BMI), and requirements that truckers use only expensive medical devices to treat the condition when other less expensive alternatives may be as effective.