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Sleep apnea screenings proposed for truckers

The government sought public opinion on a proposal to regulate the screening and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea among railroad workers and truck drivers before moving ahead with the rule. Truck drivers in West Virginia probably will not be surprised that opinions were mixed.

As a respiratory disorder, sleep apnea frequently interrupts breathing during sleep. When people do not seek treatment for sleep apnea, it can lead to inattentiveness and impairment while they are awake. A study that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sponsored with the University of Pennsylvania found that 28 percent of commercial vehicle drivers suffer from the condition.

The FMCSA received hundreds of comments from the public about its proposal. Many people agreed that driving while fatigued is a key safety issue for bus and truck drivers. However, some of them believe the hours-of-service regulations should be modified to let drivers nap without reducing their time on duty. Others thought it would be ill-advised to make drivers or companies foot the bill for tests and treatments, which could amount to thousands of dollars. One commenter who has sleep apnea and uses a special machine to help control it noted that most insurance policies do not pay for it.

The co-founder of Road Safety America pointed out that airline pilots are screened for sleep apnea, but their planes can fly themselves. Truck drivers are not screened even though they have to pay attention to the road every second they are behind the wheel, he added. While other organizations believe screening is a good idea, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, along with some other organizations, opposed the screening requirements until the FMCSA shows that the disorder causes a significant number of traffic accidents.

Thousands of people become injured and hundreds more die in trucking accidents every year. When the negligence of truck drivers or their employers is the cause of tractor-trailer crashes, the victims might want to meet with an attorney to determine how best to seek compensation for their losses.

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