Fleet Management

Capitol Hill Dems Float Bill to Force Sleep-Apnea Rule

September 29, 2017

By David Cullen

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Image: Volvo Group
Image: Volvo Group

Six weeks after the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration pulled their advance notice of proposed rulemaking on obstructive sleep apnea, Democrats in both the House and Senate are pushing back.

The legislation they’re sponsoring would force the Department of Transportation to mandate sleep-apnea testing and treatment for both truck drivers and railroad engineers.

The lawmakers’ move also came just a week after the National Transportation Safety Board said that engineers involved in two deadly commuter-train crashes near New York City were diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) introduced the bill in the Senate, where it is cosponsored by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Albio Sires (D-NJ).

“Whether on the roads or the rails, the safety of the traveling public must be our highest transportation priority,” said Sen. Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate’s mass transit subcommittee.  “I’m disappointed that the administration chose to put the traveling public at risk by ignoring the threat sleep apnea poses.  This legislation would address that failure and implement this commonsense public safety policy to protect riders, save lives, and make our rails and roadways safer.”

Sen. Booker, Ranking Member of the Senate subcommittee on rail infrastructure called the administration’s pulling of the sleep apnea pre-rule “shortsighted and reckless.”

According to Senate Minority Leader Schumer, a federal law “would force all rail lines— in New York, New Jersey and across the country— to conduct these [apnea] tests in perpetuity and with clear federal guidelines. Across-the-board sleep apnea testing must be law of the land for train operators and commercial drivers to help ensure us that the tragedies that happened in Brooklyn and in Hoboken will be prevented in the future.”

A press release issued by the three senators stated that back in August, they had  pressed Transportation Elaine Chao on DOT’s decision to withdraw the proposed pre-rule to mandate sleep apnea testing “if a symptom is observed.”

In a letter to Secretary Chao, the senators requested they receive the data DOT used to make the decision to withdraw the rule along with DOT’s plan to identify and treat rail operators and truckers afflicted with obstructive sleep apnea.

The actual pre-rule in question (RIN 2126-AB88 and 2130-AC52), titled “Evaluation of Safety Sensitive Personnel for OSA,” specifically sought “data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in rail and highway transportation.”

In their original notice, issued back in March, FMCSA and FRA had also requested information about the potential economic impact and safety benefits associated with “regulatory actions that would result in transportation workers in these positions, who exhibit multiple risk factors for OSA, undergoing evaluation by a healthcare professional with expertise in sleep disorders, and subsequent treatment.”

In their August notice of withdrawal of the pre-rule, the agencies stated they had received more than 700 comments on regulating sleep apnea from individuals, medical professionals, labor groups, and transportation industry stakeholders as well as from the National Transportation Safety Board. 

At that time, FMCSA said that it was reminding medical examiners that “there are no FMCSA rules or other regulatory guidance beyond” existing Medical Review Board recommendations that already “provide objective criteria for identifying drivers who may be at greater risk for OSA.”

Related: Feds Withdraw Sleep Apnea Pre-Rule



  1. 1. Tim [ October 02, 2017 @ 04:23AM ]

    Ever notice how anything and everything the liberal dimwits on Capital Hill want to propose, no matter how ridiculous, is always described as "commonsense?" How about doing away with some of the ridiculous rules they've promulgated over the past few years that force drivers to drive tired and attempt to sleep while wide awake? The 14 hr rule, the mandated breaks and their lengths are bad enough, but add in the ELD's that take any bit of flexibility away from the drivers and it's a recipe for disaster, sleep apnea or not. These idiots should be forced to stay in a truck sleeper for 8 or 10 hours, especially if it's team driven, over roads nobody has bothered to maintain in recent memory. I can't sleep that long in a bed that's not moving at all. We had rules that worked well for 50 years that were tossed and replaced w/ rules for rules sake having nothing whatsoever to do with promoting safety --- in fact they've had exactly the opposite effect. We need fewer and less stringent rules rather than piling on a few more.

  2. 2. JStephens [ October 02, 2017 @ 05:41AM ]

    I realize that this is mostly political grandstanding but do they have any idea just what requiring "across the board" sleep apnea testing would include? The cost of just performing a sleep study as a part of every DOT physical would push the price over $500.00 for every physical done until a driver was put on a CPAP device. The time that it takes to get a physical done would stretch out from a few hours to several days.

  3. 3. John Haskamp [ October 02, 2017 @ 06:48AM ]

    Perhaps air traffic controllers, pilots, any one driving on the road? Maybe all senators & congressmen should be tested ? Surely they must be awake & attentive when they are making laws for the entire country ????

  4. 4. Fredrick Rourk [ October 02, 2017 @ 06:54AM ]

    Why only Truck Drivers and Rail Road Engineers?
    Airline Pilots are exempt?

    See plenty of 90 yr olds leaning over the steering wheel trying to see past the hood of their car.

  5. 5. steve [ October 02, 2017 @ 10:49AM ]

    Some one tell me why the Democrats have such a Hatred for the working class but none for the Lazy people that they seem to assist with all the tax money that the working class is paying in taxes. They force the drivers to work 8 to 11 hours straight as so they can make a living working 70 hours a week then take the money and give it to people who do nothing,then after they pass all the stupid rules.take no responsibility for any of it then tell you that you need a sleep study that YOU have to pay for because you are falling asleep at the wheel. Really does this make any sense anywhere BUT IN POLITICS,not to mention Major trucking companies and the ATA

  6. 6. Richard Davis [ October 03, 2017 @ 06:05AM ]

    You STUPID SOB's in Washington, trucks are not the only vehicles on the road. If you are going to pass a STUPID law, it needs to be for everyone. I guess you think people that drive cars don't get sleepy and cause wrecks. Even though the cars cause like 75% of the accidents with trucks. All the rules you IDIOTS try passing is against the drivers that don't cause the accidents.


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