The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have extended the public-comment period on the impact a sleep-apnea rule might have on CMV drivers and rail workers.

The comment period has been extended from June 8 to July 8, 2016. The reason cited for adding on a month was the request by the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association to extend the comment period to allow reviewing the American Transportation Research Institute’s recent survey on sleep-apnea issues. 

The agencies said that OOIDA stated that the ATRI survey will provide a comprehensive look at the impact of OSA screening and treatment within the motor carrier community that goes beyond the information that any one carrier can provide. OOIDA said that having that data will enable it to present a better analysis of the information requested by the regulators. ANPRM. ATRI released its survey results on May 26

FMCSA and FRA added that they “believe that other potential commenters to this rulemaking will benefit from an extension as well.” 

Back on March 8, the agencies said their Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a.k.a. a “pre-rule,” is “the first step” in considering whether to propose specific requirements around OSA. 

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

The agencies are also requesting 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.”

Regulatory action around OSA has long been in the works. FMCSA’s Medical Review Board began issuing recommendations back in 2000 on the screening, diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of truckers afflicted with sleep apnea.

The current pre-rule activity is in line with legislation passed by Congress in 2013 that instructs FMCSA on the regulatory approach it must take regarding OSA.

That law does not require the agency to issue any sleep-apnea policy or regulation. Rather, the bill states that no policy can be issued without the agency first conducting a thorough analysis of the prevalence of OSA among commercial drivers; the range of possible actions to address the problem; and the costs and benefits that may result.

FMCSA currently recommends that medical examiners refer any CMV drivers who are detected to have a respiratory dysfunction, such as OSA, for further evaluation and therapy. 

The agency issued a bulletin in January, 2015, to remind healthcare professionals on the agency’s National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners of the current physical qualifications standard and advisory criteria concerning the respiratory system, including specifically how the requirements apply to drivers who may have obstructive sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea is often viewed as a safety concern because it can cause general fatigue and result in drowsy driving.

To read the joint ANPRM on OSA (Docket ID: FMCSA-2015-0419) and provide comments, click here.

Related: How Not to Lose Sleep over Apnea