Almost a year and a half after the FMCSA’s sleep apnea proposal was announced, it has been officially dismantled with a ruling that the current regulations that are in place are the “appropriate avenues” for dealing with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
The FMCSA’s Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) regarding OSA was issued in March of 2016 after a study found that about 28% of commercial drivers suffered from mild to severe sleep apnea. The FMCSA announcement claims that OSA “can cause unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory, thus reducing the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive duties.”
To their credit, the FMCSA decided to issue an ANPRM and gather more information on the subject before launching in to an NPRM and creating a rule right away. The ANPRM requested comments and input from the public on the potential benefits and risks of regulatory action.
In response, the FMCSA received more than 700 comments from individuals, labor groups, medical professionals, industry groups, government agencies like the National Transportation Safety Board, and even three members of Congress.
The notice of withdrawal, published in the Federal Register, was a joint statement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration. In it, they announce that they believe that “current safety programs and FRA’s rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address OSA,” and that a separate rule will not be needed.
This withdrawal leaves the decision of whether a driver should receive sleep apnea screening up to his or her medical examiner and won’t require drivers to undergo mandatory screening based off of other factors. The notice does however urge medical examiners to require sleep apnea testing if they think that “the driver’s respiratory condition is in any way likely to interfere with the driver’s ability to safely control and drive a commercial motor vehicle.”
Just because this rule has been killed before it even really started, doesn’t mean that further restrictions won’t be put in place using existing medical examination rules in the future. For now however, the decision of whether or not a driver needs OSA screening will be left up to medical examiners.