October 10, 2012
LAS VEGAS - Seeing disturbing indications that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration may plan to address the issue of sleep apnea among truck drivers with a "guidance" rather than a rulemaking, the American Trucking Associations has a new policy position that will allow its staff to work to convince agency leaders that a formal rulemaking process is necessary.The new policy was approved by the ATA board of directors during ATA's annual Management Conference & Exhibition. "Fatigue and driver health are two serious issues facing the trucking industry," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "However, as important as it is to address those issues, it is equally important for the federal government to use the regulatory process - with its emphasis on science-based outcomes and cost-benefit analyses."ATA's new policy reads in part that any effort to address sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, should be done "through rulemaking and not through the publication of regulatory guidance;" and that those rules focus on "conditions that pose a substantially elevated crash risk based on sound data and analysis, be cost beneficial and promote effective treatments that minimize the impact to motor carriers.""There's potential that in the future, guidance could be made effective immediately, and that would not be a good idea from our perspective," says Dave Osiecki, senior vice president of policy and regulatory affairs. "A rulemaking requires public input," which would allow the trucking industry and ATA to comment on how it would affect them."It also requires a cost benefit analysis, which goes to the point that there has to be enough benefit to outweight the cost," Osiecki says. "We're a little concerned that that is not the current plan of this administration."We know that federal regulators are looking to address the issue of sleep disorders," said Mike Card, president of Combined Transport, Central Point, Ore., and new ATA chairman, "what we are doing today is asking the government to follow its own normal processes and do this properly."