Bill Challenges FMCSA to Write Sleep Disorder Rule

September 12, 2013

By Oliver Patton

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe

Two congressmen have introduced bipartisan legislation that would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to write a regulation covering sleep disorders, rather than issue a guidance as it is planning to do.

Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., on Thursday offered a bill that says the agency must go through the rulemaking process to regulate sleep disorders, including sleep apnea.

The agency has for years been working on updating its guidance to medical examiners regarding sleep disorders. Among other things, the pending guidance could tell examiners that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more must be evaluated for sleep apnea.

But trucking interests are deeply concerned that the agency’s approach of posting a guidance, rather than a formal rule, does not give employers a clear enough statement of their legal responsibilities.

Just this week, for example, Don Osterberg, senior vice president of safety, security and driver training for Schneider National, told Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari that the agency’s approach has the effect of putting trucking companies in a tight legal spot.

“It puts motor carriers in a situation where we can pick our lawsuit,” he said. He explained that carriers must embrace agency guidelines as rules, or be subject to post-accident litigation.

Bucshon and Lipinski underscored that point in a letter to their congressional colleagues. The guidance, as opposed to a rulemaking, would make carriers “extremely vulnerable” to litigation, they said.

The congressmen said the trucking industry estimates it will cost more than $1 billion a year to screen, diagnose and treat sleep apnea among truck drivers.

“If FMCSA were to act through a formal rulemaking process rather than a guidance, the rule would be categorized as economically significant under (Office of Management and Budget) directives,” they wrote.

That means the agency would have to evaluate the costs and benefits of the rule, as it would not have to through the guidance approach.

The bill does not require the agency to set a sleep apnea policy and it does not say what such a policy should contain.

“It only states that in the interest of due process, any actions the agency takes be made through the rulemaking process,” the congressmen said.

The bill is endorsed by American Trucking Associations, the American Bus Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the National School Transportation Association, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, and United Motorcoach Association.



  1. 1. mel [ September 13, 2013 @ 05:33AM ]

    I believe our truck drivers have enough to deal with in this world now. They just keep on . Do you want to do away with them. How would you get your commodities, foods, clothing, and everything comes in on truck, even from railroads. What is wrong with this world, common sense has went out the door. Let us keep pounding all the work forces until there are none .

  2. 2. Vince Mortensen trucking [ September 13, 2013 @ 06:32AM ]

    It seems to me that to promote economic growth you don't involve regulations that perhaps are designed to accomplish a particular issue though not engineered to accommodate the all mighty
    "Un intended consequence" such as the pre mentioned bill. Lets regulate the industry's ability to move American commerce to promote growth then place rules and mandates and taxes and permits and drive time and sleep requirments and what more can our government govern that won't have an adverse effect. I'm rambling now......
    It appears the sleep deprived are the ones behind the regulations with a
    " up in the night mentality"
    I believe thru the current hours of service we have enough mandate in place that provides adequete rest time. We have as company owners a duty and responsibility to police ourselves thru our own internal policies that are designed and engineered for the safety and profitability of the employee and company. Are our government officials held by the same? I'll bet not one person setting these rules are followed and scrutinized and poked and prodded while doing your job. Are we assured that our elected officials are not sleep deprived and if so are they up all night and then trying to perform at a level that says
    They're making proper decisions for the good of our industry. It seems the sleep deprived are the rule makers and that my fellow truck drivers, owner ops and company owners should WAKE US ALL UP!!!!!
    Remember this,
    Give what you want.

  3. 3. Dean kirsch [ September 13, 2013 @ 06:41AM ]

    This is a going to be a major problem either way. Post accident proof of whether or not the driver had been diagnosed with a sleep disorder will be an issue. Further, a carrier may have the burden of proving that the driver was properly using any prescribed treatment prior to an accident.
    Whether the rule/guidance enhances safety or not it will be a landfall for attorneys on both sides. It may also come to having our insurance carriers wanting complete medical files on drivers one day.

  4. 4. Bobby D. [ September 14, 2013 @ 11:13AM ]

    It seems to me that our federal government has forgotten that many years ago they deregulated our industry. Now we have more regulations than ever. What is wrong with this picture. I am all for free enterprise but our beloved trucking industry is far from free enterprise. Allow us to do our job like all other private businesses. I am all for public safety but the burden of operating safely should not just be placed upon the trucking industry.

  5. 5. BarbRRB [ September 16, 2013 @ 05:44AM ]

    The government is KILLING America. With all they have done to chase the great drivers away, bring on the new steering wheel holders. FMCSA, becareful, you can't get it all. There is "NO perfect driver" in this world, Setting the standards for disaster, just what you do best.

  6. 6. Robert [ October 13, 2013 @ 04:11PM ]

    A Sleep Apnea Rule for Commercial Drivers. There are probably many drivers whom have this condition and have not been tested but to force someone for the expenses for the testing in order to pass the DOT Physical is not fair. Trucking Companies should pay for this as an investment for hiring their employees if this is a Safety Requirement. I would like to also know where it says that during the required 10 Hour Off Duty Rest Break that it is a requirement to sleep? Nothing in the FMCSA requires a driver to sleep before resetting Hours of Service after 10 Hours. Will the FMCSA start monitoring drivers to make sure they sleep?


Comment On This Story

Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.


We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.


ELDs and Telematics

sponsored by
sponsor logo

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All