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Lawmakers revive FMCSA sleep apnea rule

Truck drivers in Texas and around the country who may be at high risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea may soon be required to undergo mandatory testing for the condition. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration abandoned plans to introduce a rule mandating sleep apnea testing for at-risk truck drivers when industry groups raised objections and public hearings failed to provide enough evidence to move the proposal forward, but the mantle has since been taken up by Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The lawmakers behind the Senate and House sleep apnea bills say that regulatory intervention is required to protect the public and provide doctors with a single testing protocol. Medical professionals currently have no clear direction in this area, and trade groups representing truck drivers have accused the health care industry of promoting unnecessary, expensive and invasive testing for financial gain. Truck drivers also claimed that the proposed FMCSA rule would violate their constitutional rights.

The issue is a serious one because truck drivers control vehicles weighing up to 40 tons, and sleep apnea sufferers often suffer from extreme fatigue and can find it difficult to stay awake during the day. The situation is made more urgent because obesity has been strongly linked with sleep apnea and is also common among truck drivers due to the sedentary nature of their work and the kind of food generally on offer at truck stops and highway rest areas.

Accidents caused by fatigued truck drivers often claim the lives of other road users or leave them catastrophically injured. Experienced personal injury attorneys pursuing civil remedies on behalf of truck accident victims may initiate litigation against drivers who have violated federal hours of service rules, but they could also sue trucking companies when their drivers have been given unrealistic deadlines or overly demanding schedules.

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