Channel 19

Todd Dills

‘Medically certified’ — join us for radio show Wednesday to probe driver health regs

| June 21, 2011

At 7 p.m. Eastern time tomorrow evening (Wed., June 22) I’ll join Truth About Trucking Live hosts Allen & Donna Smith as well as my colleague Max Kvidera for a special show probing the issues raised by the current, June Truckers News cover story Kvidera and I penned about state and federal regs for driver medical certification. Joining us will be a special guest, a big-hearted driver I wrote about in my portion of the story, Indiana hauler Ed Webb. Webb’s a sleep apnea sufferer, and his story is interesting in what it says about the shifting landscape for the condition’s treatment in this industry.

The story complicates a point federal officials have made repeatedly over the last several years about the condition — that there are no specific federal regulations that pertain to sleep apnea beyond its presence on the long form drivers must fill out to obtain their medical card, indicating past diagnosis. There are, however, recommendations for regulations that have come from the federal Medical Review Board for mandatory screening of certain drivers, likewise recommendations for treatment requirements. Though FMCSA has yet to act on those recommendations in any proposed rulemakings and told me nothing could be expected in near future, the same can’t be said for Ed Webb’s home state of Indiana.

Webb (pictured) found himself, after an odd encounter with Indiana law enforcement (he was woken from a rest area nap by an officer to then receive and ill/fatigued driver citation), Webb found his sleep apnea treatment being audited by the Indiana Department of Revenue’s Motor Carrier Services division. They required a very specific level of use of his Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, on which his CDL would be contingent.

As I wrote in the story, “You won’t find that in the federal regulations,” said FMCSA’s Indiana division administrator Kenneth Strickland. “Indiana’s are more stringent than any other state in the U.S.”

In short, state monitoring of some drivers’ sleep apnea is no dream, as federal regulators would have it. It’s happening in Indiana.

The questions raised by this are many — some contend states’ different approaches to medical certification regs are a hindrance to interstate commerce in cases like this, which require numerous additional doctor visits and downtime for drivers.

And if a state department can insist on downloads from drivers’ medical devices, which Indiana has done several times with Webb, how long before, as Webb asks, roadside officers can do the same. “There are a lot of people with CPAP machines out there,” he noted to me. “Imagine getting pulled by the DOT cop, and he asks for your medical card. And say it will show where you’re using a CPAP machine. He takes that machine back to his car and downloads data from the machine and makes you medically disqualified right there.”

For the full story, in which Max Kvidera explored the in-process National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners, expected to weed out docs who may be rubber-stamping driver long forms and contributing to a medical falsification problem, find it here on TruckersNews.com.

Webb, for his part, is grateful for the improvement in his health his apnea treatment has provided (he told me just a few days ago he’d gotten his blood pressure under good control and had lost upward of 30 pounds), just not so grateful for the ringer his state’s put him through. He demonstrates the CPAP device in the second video below, and in the first tells his story in part. He’ll do so again tomorrow on the Truth About Trucking program. Listen live at 7 p.m. Eastern Wednesday here.

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