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FMCSA Will Clarify Sleep Apnea Instructions to Medical Examiners

December 3, 2014

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will clarify its instructions to medical examiners concerning screening drivers for sleep apnea.

In response to congressional concern about sleep apnea training for examiners, the agency said it will notify examiners and trainers that they should not use federal rules and advice as guidance for apnea screening and testing.

Acting FMCSA Administrator Scott Darling also said the agency will commence a rulemaking on sleep disorders this year. Specifically, the agency plans to request comments on the costs and benefits of a rule.

At issue is a 2013 law requiring the agency to write the rule on sleep disorders, rather than handling them through guidance to medical examiners as it has in the past.

In October, the congressmen who wrote the law, Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., warned the agency that some trainers are giving medical examiners incorrect information.

They said the agency should tell its approved training organizations not to follow any specific steps with respect to sleep apnea testing and treatment.

In his November 23 response to Lipinski and Buschon, Darling said the agency gives training organizations a list of topics they must cover in their courses.

The agency does not prohibit the organizations from presenting more information about sleep apnea than was available in a guidance posted in 2000, Darling said.

He said the agency will send a bulletin to examiners and training explaining that current rules and advice should not be used as guidance.

“FMCSA will encourage medical examiners to explain to drivers the difference between actions based on the current regulations and advisory criteria versus actions based on the medical examiners’ professional judgment,” he said.

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