The feds are seeking public input through the spring on the impacts of screening, evaluating and treating commercial drivers with obstructive sleep apnea.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says an estimated 22 million people nationwide suffer from OSA, a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or pause in breathing during sleep. When undiagnosed or untreated, these “unintended sleep episodes” can result in attention and concentration deficits, lack of situational awareness, memory loss and reduced capacity to safely respond to hazards when, say, driving a school bus.
For example, a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that the eight hours of sleep that someone with OSA gets compared to one with normal sleep patterns can be less refreshing than just four hours of uninterrupted sleep.
FMCSA seeks to use public comments on an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking for proposing specific OSA requirements, and even is looking to previous actions taken by the FAA.
“The collection and analysis of sound data on the impact of OSA must be our immediate first step,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “We call upon the public to help us better understand the prevalence of OSA among commercial truck and bus drivers, as well as the safety and economic impacts on the truck and bus industries.”
FMCSA currently currently recommends that medical examiners refer commercial drivers with OSA for further evaluation and therapy. In January 2015, FMCSA issued a bulletin to remind healthcare professionals who belong to the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners of the current physical qualifications standard and advisory criteria concerning the respiratory system, specifically how the requirements apply to drivers that may have OSA.
FMCSA is partnering with the Federal Railroad Administration to also target rail workers.