Truckers News Staff | February 01, 2011

Let’s Get this BMI Thing Right

Joey Lemon’s letter on driver health in the December issue was right on with many points. One statement, though, has a problem. “… the truck drivers out there who are worried about losing their jobs, getting laid off or being disqualified because of their BMI ….” Don’t worry about any of this. One of the myths and misinformation about the sleep apnea/BMI issue that FMCSA has been working hard to dispel is that a high BMI will disqualify you. This was a point Dr. Maggi Gunnels from FMCSA has been making over and over in appearances like the webinar Truckers News hosted with her not long ago.

The only thing that has been proposed is to increase the screening for sleep apnea as part of the DOT physical. BMI is only one of the factors a medical examiner will look at in deciding if a driver would need to get tested. If you have sleep apnea you would just need to get the proper treatment to be medically qualified to drive. This is no different than having high blood pressure, diabetes or a host of other common medical issues. There are lots of us driving truck with sleep apnea. I have it.

You cannot lose your job just because you have sleep apnea. There is a law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act. It protects the jobs of anyone with a disability like sleep apnea. The DOT medical guidelines do complicate how the ADA applies to truck drivers. But if you are “under current and effective treatment for sleep apnea” and lose your job just because of having sleep apnea the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will take legal action if you file a complaint.

The BMI sleep apnea issue has lots of truckstop myths and rumors. Let’s try to squash one of them. If you have sleep apnea you will just need to be properly treated. Even if FMCSA was not increasing screening, untreated sleep apnea causes a host of other medical issues that will kill you if not treated.

Bob Stanton

Truckers for a Cause Chapter of A. W. A. K. E. (a support group for truck drivers with sleep apnea)

CVSA backs CSA

Government and law enforcement agencies at the state and local levels are continuing to be fiscally challenged with respect to resources being made available for highway safety activities. The public — and rightly so — has an expectation that a basic responsibility of government is to keep our citizens traveling the roadways safe and secure. The challenge unfortunately is that, all too often, public safety is one of the first areas of government to be cut when budgets are tight.

Using performance data to reveal which motor carriers and drivers are not complying with safety rules allows inspectors and other law enforcement personnel to more effectively focus on and remove the most unsafe drivers, vehicles and carriers from the nation’s roadways, saving countless lives in the process.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is a strong advocate of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program’s use of performance data to identify the nation’s most high-risk carriers. There is clear evidence that links the CSA Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and its associated Safety Measurement System (SMS) with increased crash risk. Providing enforcement the ability to use this data is common sense and allows them to keep an eagle eye on those that do not comply.

CSA helps to prioritize carrier interventions through the use of additional metrics more so than in the past, including all safety-based roadside inspection violations, enforcement actions, crash data and violation histories and will update these data more frequently. This is good news as it will allow interventions on high-risk operators to occur sooner than what had been the case in the past, ultimately saving more lives in the process. On August 16, 2010, FMCSA began providing carriers with information about where they stand with the new CSA SMS based on roadside inspection data and investigation findings.

While SafeStat has been an effective safety tool for public and private stakeholders alike — and the data has been publicly available for more than a decade — CSA goes even farther at helping to identify those carriers with the most severe compliance and performance problems and in need of further attention. The CSA effectiveness study has revealed that the SMS high-risk carrier list has identified 25% more high-risk carriers who have been involved in 56% more crashes than was the case with the SafeStat high-risk list.

By implementing CSA, federal and state inspectors and investigators are improving on their ability to proactively address the issues that are most likely to contribute to crashes and cause injuries and deaths related to large truck and bus crashes. The pilot program experience in nine states has shown that we can effectively “reach” more carriers, which is a good thing, and is an improvement over what has been the case in the past. The experience in the pilot states by both enforcement and industry has by and large been very positive. We wholeheartedly applaud FMCSA for their leadership and for being as transparent as they have with CSA and appreciate the level of engagement throughout the development of CSA. They have brought everyone into the tent to create an environment to help promote government, law enforcement and industry’s common goal of saving lives — it has been and will continue to make a difference.

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