Two congressmen have told the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that some of the organizations providing sleep apnea training to medical examiners are teaching the wrong material.
President Obama last year signed a law requiring the agency to write a rule covering sleep disorders, rather than handling them through guidance to medical examiners.
But Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., who wrote the law, now say some trainers are giving medical examiners incorrect information.
In an October 2 letter to acting FMCSA chief Scott Darling, Bucshon and Lipinski said the agency should tell its approved training organizations that they should not follow any specific steps with respect to sleep apnea testing and treatment.
“Specific steps means that they are not to follow the specific steps in the training materials or provide guidance in the absence of a rulemaking,” said Lipinski spokesman Isaac Sancken in response to an email query.
“All it says is that medical examiner training organizations aren’t to give specific steps as there technically aren’t any in the absence of a rulemaking.”
The congressmen said the agency may not be involved with the curriculum, but they are troubled that the training organizations are listed on the FMCSA web site.
They want the agency to tell the trainers to remove from their materials any references to recommendations by the Medical Review Board, the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the agency itself.
That information is available online but it is not supposed to be on the formal medical guidance for examiners
Bucshon and Lipinski also want the agency to tell examiners who have already been trained to correct their practices.
“It is imperative that FMCSA address these issues as soon as possible,” they said. “These faulty training courses are keeping qualified drivers off the road.”
The congressmen also want the agency to say when it will start the sleep apnea rulemaking.
This situation arises from concern in the industry about the agency’s former plan to address sleep apnea by beefing up its long-standing guidance to medical examiners.
The agency traditionally relied on guidance to make sure that examiners can spot drivers who may have a sleep disorder. In recent years, as doctors and medical researchers learned more about sleep disorders, the agency’s initial reaction was to pass that information on to examiners by strengthening its guidance.
But trucking interests were concerned about that approach because it would not give employers a clear enough statement of their legal responsibilities.
The solution was to write a rule that will cover not just the newest understanding of sleep disorders but also the full impact of such a rule, including costs and benefits. American Trucking Associations has estimated that the rule will cost $1 billion a year.
The agency has said it intends to write the rule but has not yet posted a schedule.