Amid government shutdown furor, a tap on the sleep apnea brakes

| October 03, 2013
"CPAP saved my life," wrote Bill McVay, responding to the question posed by this poll, which showed a solid third of drivers have actually taken the apnea test to date. Others responding positively to treatment included Edward Lomas, who has a CPAP machine and uses it. "It's not as bad as you think."

“CPAP saved my life,” wrote Bill McVay, responding to the question posed by this poll, which showed a solid third of drivers have actually taken the apnea test to date. Others responding positively to treatment included Edward Lomas, who has a CPAP machine and uses it. “It’s not as bad as you think.” Driver Ed Webb, interviewed in 2011, agreed with such sentiment, though navigating Indiana’s independently instituted apnea program for medical certifications proved difficult. Hear him tell his story in the video at the bottom of this post.

As the race to the shutdown  — the government shutdown, that is — drew near, on September 26 news came down of a surprising unanimity on both sides of the aisle in the House of Representatives. It was over a bill introduced a very short time earlier that would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to pursue a full-blown rulemaking, with consideration given to the costs to the industry and more, if they want to regulate drivers’ medical certifications relative to the sleep apnea condition.

The bill sits in committee in the Senate, but as the House considered it FMCSA formally declared it would pursue a full rulemaking on apnea following thorough analysis.   

Related: Sleep, a user’s guide

And why were the trucking organizations so happy about this? It makes it highly likely any final requirements for consideration of the condition as a prerequisite to drivers obtaining their medical certifications would be longer in coming and they’d at least have input. If FMCSA goes that route, of course, and there are plenty of indications that they want to. Regular readers will recall the “trial balloon that went off like the Hindenburg,” as one owner-operator called it at the time, that was FMCSA’s erroneous proposal of formal guidance on the condition that was nearly to a word identical to the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee/Medical Review Board’s final recommendations on screening/testing requirements for apnea, which you can read here.

In any case, many readers weren’t so sunny on the bill, responding in volume to the latest news. Here’s a round-up of some of the viewpoints:

E.F. McHenry:  Like a staged game, this bill just nudges FMCSA to get to it with the appearance of making everything adversarial and controversial. I’m convinced guidance would have caused real controversy and litigation in the long run and forestalled a formal rule for many years, possibly even until the next decade it at all. The payoff to the main players in the Congress and Senate is crystal clear! 

Commenting as “GSP”: This gives them a chance to say they did something while they do nothing about the real issues that threaten this country.

Commenting as “Truckertwotimes”: Out of two tests I had, one said I had it, so I bought my own machine and it didn’t help. Another test later said I didn’t have it and that doctor said there isn’t any gray area, either. You have it or you don’t, and either the machine works or it doesn’t. 

Commenting asGeorge”: My wife was overweight and used a CPAP machine. Two years ago she had bariatric surgery and lost weight as a result. About four months after her surgery, she no longer required the breathing machine at night. Others we know that were diabetic had similar procedures, and no longer require treatment for diabetes.

Don Lanier: Drivers must get involved and be part of this rulemaking, and oppose this mandate, oppose its implementation and its abuse. The stigma of overweight drivers being unsafe is false, and wrong,

Via Overdrive’s Facebook page:
John McCormack: How about sleep apnea testing for noncommercial drivers? Let’s see if that one would pass.

Scott Noble: What I want to know is when they are going to make it mandatory for a hands-free device when driving a car… Oh I know why [they won’t], because they will never get it passed.

Weigh in yourself in the comments below the video — you can also read more of driver Ed Webb’s story via this link.

  • MercenaryMan

    When enough drivers say hey this is taking money from my family, my kids because some lobbying group wants to earn 5 billion dollars off so called fat truckers I have to say ENOUGH, and those of use who have written and written may finally be heard. Any driver who is having a problem staying awake SHOULD get treatment, but we all dont need treatment. The first time I encountered this I was told UNLESS I AGREE I WOULD NOT GET MY CDL, and I had a promising new job, a new truck and here i was being Blackmailed by a clinic who didnt even consider my driving record. Why does a driver work hard to keep his record clear of accidents, tickets, Pass Inspections and make sure his equipment is in good shape assuring on time deliverys, Only to be told HES FAT and hes Unsafe and his record doesnt mean diddly….I believe any new law should look at this record of fact. If your reckless it shows on CSA, Inspections, MVR…but if thats clear and your considered a safe driver, you should get a PASS, My diligence, should be rewarded, not discarded…any new rules on this should consider a driving record !!!

  • Bob Riker

    Sleep Testing and Treatment!

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  • very disappointed

    It’s a form of discrimination. How can you look at someone and say they have sleep apnea. There are skinny children that have sleep apnea. I was told to get tested for sleep apnea by a nurses practitioner when I went for my medical recertification. I went to my doctor in which he said that I don’t have sleep apnea and that was not good enough for the clinic that did my physical so I went to have the sleep study and tested negative for sleep apnea. This clinic still wanted me to do a trial with a sleep machine JUST to see if I would sleep better and would not sign of on my medical certificate. After I’m out of a thousand dollars for the sleep study. I am 45 years old if a had a problem with sleeping or staying awake then sure, I would definitely want something to help me sleep better. What is really funny is the fact that I problems getting to sleep “Do you have a machine for that”?. I was only 30 pounds overweight. Not strongly suffering from Obesity.Then I found myself starving myself to try and lose weight because driving is my career. I stop driving I lose everything because “someone says I have a sleep disorder” I am comfortable in my skin I never had a complex about my weight. Sure I know it is healthier to be thin but I’m not out of shape. I exercise by walking everyday when I can and have extra time and would never put myself or the lives of others in danger by driving fatigue. I could drive 18hrs non stop if it were legal and I’m adult enough and safe enough to stop when I feel myself getting tired. This whole sleep apnea thing is just another way to be controlled. It has cost me a lot of money that I do not have and now I am filing a discrimination law suit against the clinic that would not sign off on my card. I went to another clinic and had the sleep specialist fax them over the results and data from my sleep study and I now have a 2 year card. The whole ordeal was a waist of my time and loss of wages.

  • MercenaryMan

    There are Dental appliances that cost 10 BUCKS….TEN DOLLARS, but they dont want those included, well I say if all treatments are to be considered and its about safety, and the well being of drivers abnd a 10 DOLLAR device cures the snoring….WHERE ARE THE ADS, THE RECOMMENDATIONS, nowhere because GE, RESMED, AND PHILLIPS HAVE A VESTED INTEREST in getting 1 million drivers on these programs, at 3000-4000 a piece each, to start then a Monthly fee for a machine, a 3 month checkup, possibly repeating your sleep study, @ 1000, and ongoing needs for the machine, Filters, cleaners, masks, it adds up to about 5 THOUSAND dollars a year that you pay out of pocket as more and more Insurance companies decide this isnt neccessary, its a push to manufacture an Industry off the backs of Truckers, Fat or Not, its a ROBBERY from my family, my business and my Industry, PLEASE speak out against this….

  • RDD

    I am curious to how this driver can actually testify that it saved his life. He is here to speak which means he is still breathing, yet he takes the 50% theory of a so called educated person that is he had not went in for testing he would not be alive. That by doing it, it has saved his life. I also find that it is curious as to the reason the effects that cpap has had on infants and toddlers still remains out of the discussions of this mandate

  • sleeptech920

    I work for a sleep lab and have watched many people of all ages and sizes come through the doors and suffer from moderate to severe sleep apnea. Yes, obesity plays a major part in sleep apnea but it is not the only determining factor. We have many people who are quite physically fit come into our lab who have an RDI or respiritory disturbance index of 30 or higher which is considered moderate sleep apnea. This means that on average a person is waking up 30 times an hour all night long due to not breathing or shallow breathing. I guess what I am trying to say is that I don’t see how screening people who are going to be driving for a living is going to hurt anybody. screening does not mean you are going to be diagnosed with sleep apnea but if you are then you should be treated prior to getting on the road. I know it can be a burden when it comes to time and money for a study and possibly a CPAP machine but in the long run and for the safety of yourself and those on the road with you, in my opinion, it is well worh it. For those that are non compliant with CPAP it is most likely that a different kind of machine or mask is necessary. That is why it is important to follow up with your sleep doctor. I am angered by the fact the some people think that the sleep industry is a scam and a money making scheme when I have had patients leave out of my lab after a successful CPAP night crying and saying that they never knew they could feel this good. It is true that not everybody will tolerate CPAP but if you do have sleep apnea and it is moderate to severe and you aren’t willing to be treated, I don’t want to be on the road with you.

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  • moneyhidingingood

    You are a dumb fuck. Almost every fucking driver that is OTR is tired. OTR means Over The Road fyi. How about you get tested because you drive a car. Let’s see your ass dish out the three thousand dollars to have a sleep test done! Or better yet, why don’t you greedy bastards lower your costs? OR why don’t you fucking pay for it?? Do you think a man with no job will be able to get this done? THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS THAT ANYONE IS AT RISK FOR ANY NUMBER OF REASONS ON ANY GIVEN DAY. Personally, I odn’t want to be on the road witrh your stupid ass because your not a professional driver and you run the risk of not be able to drive worth a fuck!

  • jeff

    amen bro,trucks are a small % of highway accidents everybody should get tested periods you money hungry pieces of shit …..

  • Jeff Wolsieffer

    LOL, well, it was approved by Obama so you know it’s crooked as hell; just think of all the kick-backs HE’LL be making from those Banks when it was the Warehousing of Items never making it to market that caused the crisis in the first place!
    Sleep Apnea, Fat People, Gays, Lesbians; what’s next, Hitler’s Blondie Youth Movements again? ROTFLMAO.

  • your an ass

    because its unconstitutional

  • StarFirePrincessWarrior

    go f yourself

  • StarFirePrincessWarrior

    Don’t want to be on the road with us?
    Who do you think delivers your food, your fuel, etc…
    CPAP is a racket that was known about years ago. Now, with enough “data”, the screws are turning even tighter.
    Slow those loads of food and fuel and we will see how long it takes to “make adjustments.”

  • Anthony Stasse

    I wonder that if your doctor so called recommends a sleep study and it comes back as negative for sleep apnea can you sue the doctor for the cost of his so called recommendation to recoup your cost of this test?

  • freedom trucker

    Amen brother! What about body buliders? According to the body mass chart if a guy is 6 feet tall and 240 pounds he is considered obese even though he doesn’t have any fat on him. I know a few guys who are great and safe drivers who have hung it up and gotten out of the industry because they are tired of all the rules and regulations and this was the last straw. That body mass chart is ridiculous and everyone should be screened individually. Of course if you really do have sleep apnea then you need treatment because you can hurt someone, but this law opens too many doors and too many drivers are getting judged by the way they look. I just got recommended for a sleep apnea study and the company who wants to hire me turned me down because of it and went to the next guy in the pile! II’m a bigger guy with a football players build and could maybe loose 40 pounds but I know I don’t snore and I sleep soundly the whole night but a skinny guy who weighs 120 pounds they hand over a 2 year card to him without thinking. Our freedoms are being taken away from us more and more in this country and someone needs to do something about it.

  • Lgisme91

    That’s exactly what needs to happen, but you can’t get truckers to stick together. They all want change, but no one is willing to take a stand. It would take everyone to sit still and not deliver a thing. Maybe then they’ll listen to the people who actually do the work for a living. It’s easy to makes rules when you go home every night, eat a nice meal, visit with your family, shower in your own home and sleep in your own bed. Yes, they choose that career, but God Bless them, because I wouldn’t want to do it. The thought of a public toilet or worse, shower,Yuck! Take a stand! Truckers, take a stand… strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.