Trucking Industry Reflects on Sleep Apnea Rulemaking Decision

In the rough and tumble world of modern politics, the trucking industry took solace in a number of regulatory triumphs, including a crucial legislative victory concerning sleep apnea. A bill, ultimately signed by President Obama, mandated that regulators agree to take sleep apnea requirements concerning truckers to a future rulemaking process, rather than merely issuing guidance.
According to Sean Garney, manager of safety policy at American Trucking Associations (ATA), rulemaking will require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to estimate the number of drivers who would be affected by the rule, the percentage of crashes in which sleep apnea is a factor, and the percentage that would be affected by treatment of apnea.
Trucking industry reporter Oliver Patton reported that the agency will have to look at the cost and effectiveness of testing and treatment, as well as the “discouragement factor”–the extent to which a rule would discourage drivers from coming into the industry, or staying in it. Garney said, “There’s just a lot that they’re going to have to study in order to understand the real impacts on the industry.”
ATA estimates that a sleep apnea rule will cost the industry more than $1 billion a year, which is one reason why it pushed Congress to pass the bill that Obama signed last year.
“To me, what that says to the FMCSA and other regulatory agencies is when the trucking industry stands up, stands united and speaks with one voice, we can get Congress to do what we need to make sure that our industry stays strong,” said ATA President Bill Graves in Transport Topics. “And that means overriding bad regulations.”
On the loss side of the ledger, an appeals court decision in August upheld FMCSA’s new hours-of-service rule, a move that Graves called disappointing. “Despite the ruling, Graves said he believes that recent attempts by industry stakeholders to publicly raise concerns about the HOS rule’s effect on safety and productivity are gathering steam,” wrote Eric Miller, staff writer for Transport Topics.

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