The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration have withdrawn their advance notice of proposed rulemaking on obstructive sleep apnea.

The so-called “pre-rule” was jointly issued in March 2016. It was regarded by the two agencies as merely “the first step” in considering whether to propose specific requirements around OSA for commercial vehicle drivers and rail workers in “safety sensitive positions.”

FMCSA and FRA said in an Aug. 4 announcement of the withdrawal that the agencies have “determined not to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking at this time and believe that current safety programs and FRA’s rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address OSA.”

The agencies did stress that “OSA remains an ongoing concern for the agencies and the motor carrier and railroad industries because it can cause unintended sleep episodes and resulting deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, and memory, thus reducing the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive duties.”

The 2016 pre-rule (RIN 2126-AB88 and 2130-AC52), titled “Evaluation of Safety Sensitive Personnel for OSA,” had sought to obtain “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 also had requested 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.”

In its notice of withdrawal published in the Federal Register, the agencies stated they had received more than 700 comments from individuals, medical professionals, labor groups, and transportation industry stakeholders as well as the National Transportation Safety Board.

FMCSA added that it “reminds medical examiners that there are no FMCSA rules or other regulatory guidance beyond” existing Medical Review Board recommendations that already “provide objective criteria for identifying drivers who may be at greater risk for OSA.”

In addition, FMCSA said it will continue to recommend that drivers and their employers use the North American Fatigue Management Program, “a voluntary, fully interactive web-based educational and training program developed to provide both truck and bus commercial vehicle drivers and carriers and others in the supply chain with an awareness of the factors contributing to fatigue and its impact on performance.”

The agency noted that Module 8 of the NAFMP program, Driver Sleep Disorders Management, includes an extensive discussion of OSA.

About the author
David Cullen

David Cullen

[Former] Business/Washington Contributing Editor

David Cullen comments on the positive and negative factors impacting trucking – from the latest government regulations and policy initiatives coming out of Washington DC to the array of business and societal pressures that also determine what truck-fleet managers must do to ensure their operations keep on driving ahead.

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