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Truckers oppose sleep apnea screening

Missouri drivers might be concerned to learn an advocacy group for independent truck drivers is seeking to prevent the federal agency in charge of trucking safety from taking steps designed to reduce the number of drowsy drivers on the nation's highways. Sleep apnea deprives its victims of quality rest and may contribute to sleep-deprived truckers. Proposed regulations would require screening for sleep apnea and potential referral for specialized treatment. Truckers are required to obtain a physical clearing them for driving at least every two years.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed a change to the medical certification form in 2015 which added questions about sleep apnea and required referral to a specialist if certain high-risk criteria were apparent to the doctor performing the physical. The Owner-Operated Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) filed suit to stop the agency from implementing the changes. According to the OOIDA, the agency did not comply with legally mandated procedures for implementing new regulations. Specifically, the OOIDA claims the agency did not allow for public comments and review before implementing the changes. Ironically, the Trump administration eliminated the proposed regulation regarding sleep apnea in 2017, but the OOIDA says the process that had been in place, which included screening and costly tests, is still burdening truckers economically.

The original suit filed by the OOIDA was dismissed and then appealed to United States Circuit Court, where it was again denied. The OOIDA has filed a motion asking the court to rehear the matter. It remains too early to see how this ultimately plays out, but there is no question about highway risks from sleepy truck drivers. Commercial vehicles are difficult to maneuver, weigh many tons, and have longer stopping distances at highway speeds. Drowsy drivers are a major public safety risk.

There are many possible causes for a trucking accident. Consulting a qualified truck accident lawyer may help isolate the cause, improve public safety, and help injured victims receive fair compensation for damages.

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