Bills in Congress would require FMCSA to implement sleep apnea rule

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Sleep ApneaFollowing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s announcement this summer that it had tabled a rule meant to implement screening criteria and treatment protocol regulations for obstructive sleep apnea, Congressional Democrats aim to press the agency to resume working on the rule.

Last week, bills were filed in both the House and the Senate to force FMCSA to produce and administer a sleep apnea screening rule.

Democrats in both chambers of Congress want to require federal trucking regulators institute a rule that sets steadfast criteria by which medical examiners would refer truck operators for apnea testing. FMCSA worked on the rule throughout 2016, including fielding rule suggestions from its Medical Advisory Board and seeking input from trucking industry stakeholders via public meetings and a pre-rule notice.

A sleep apnea rule would give clarity to medical examiners, carrier employers and drivers themselves about what criteria or combination of criteria would prompt a driver to be referred for an in-lab apnea test, as well as treatment protocol. Currently, medical examiners rely on any one of several different sets of screening protocols to determine apnea test referrals. The policy has caused confusion industry-wide, in some cases bringing charges of unwarranted referrals from drivers, who see apnea testing companies, treatment device manufacturers and doctors cashing in on a gray area in regulation.

The Senate’s sleep apnea bill was introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and is being co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.). The House bill was introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (R-N.J.) and is being co-sponsored by Albio Sires, another New Jersey Democrat.

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