FMCSA Publishes Regulatory Guidance on Sleep Apnea

(April 20, 2012) – In what is very likely a precursor to a rule requiring truck drivers operating in the U.S. to be tested for sleep apnea, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is requesting comments on the recommendations by two advisory panels for the medical procedures, evaluation and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) testing as a safety condition requirement.

FMCSA’s panels – the Medical Review Board and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee – were tasked to determine whether commercial drivers should be screened OSA and those diagnosed be medically certified.

The panel advised FMCSA that medical examiners should evaluate commercial drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more (BMI is a primary indicator of sleep apnea).

In a notice published in the Federal Register this week, FMCSA requested comments on this and other recommendations concerning apnea screening and treatment. It also acts as a guidance for the panels on providing information on how to “address drivers with OSA in the short-term until the agency can consider strategies for a long-term regulatory action.”

The panels found that 35 BMI is a reliable indicator of sleep apnea and an effective benchmark for medical examiners making tan initial screening.

Some of the other issues that the guidance discusses, include:

– General standards for diagnosing untreated OSA; dealing with driver misinformation during screening, how to prioritize drivers who need immediate treatment, treating drivers with mild OSA, minimal acceptable compliance standards.
– Conditions for immediate disqualification or certification denial in the event of a fatigue related crash; as well as conditional certifications.
– Methods of diagnosis and severity.
– Treatment using various methods such as Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) devices as well as other treatments including various surgeries.

The agency will consider all comments received by May 21, 2012.

Go to www.regulations.gov and follow online instructions for submitting comments.

Meanwhile, in advance of a potential rule in the U.S., the Canadian Trucking Alliance is preparing a sleep apnea testing pilot program for this spring.

If carriers are interested in participating, contact CTA senior VP, Stephen Laskowski at stephen.laskowski@ontruck.org.