The Donald Trump Administration has pulled back a proposed direction that would clear up the perplexity on how truck drivers ought to be analyzed and treated for obstructive rest apnea (OSA).
The withdrawal was declared toward the beginning of August by the U.S. Division of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration.
The proposition would have screened truck drivers and prepare administrators for the confusion that has been connected to falling asleep in the driver’s seat.
And keeping in mind that some in the trucking business for the most part contradict overabundance directions in the trucking space, shockingly, few were against this proposition and many were really seeking after the manage to experience. According to the U.S. Department of Health, sleep apnea is a disorder that causes one to stop breathing during sleep. These pauses in breath can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. As a result, the body moves from a state of deep sleep to light sleep as normal breathing resumes. This movement to a lighter sleep, which is often accompanied by snorting or choking sounds, makes sleep apnea sufferers more tired during the day, as they don’t get quality rest each night. Typical treatment for the condition is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine at night, which provides the user with continuous air pressure while sleeping.
More alarming, a recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations found that close to a third (28%) of commercial truck drivers have some form of sleep apnea.
“What we’re finding so far on this side of the border is that fleet managers and drivers are getting confused with the headlines about the proposal withdrawal,” he said. “We’ve actually had some of our driver patients call us and say, ‘I read the news, so does this mean that I don’t have to wear the CPAP machine anymore?’ And we have to tell them no, that the treatment still has to be used and that’s not what the proposal withdrawal means.”
Garrish, who spent more than two decades in the industry as a trucking executive, said that without a clear rule about sleep apnea screening, the process is like the “wild, wild west.”
“Without a clear rule, we have found that medical professionals are all over the board,” he said. “Some will send anyone and everyone for testing and others will send none because they don’t even know the signs and symptoms of OSA. There’s so much inconsistency across the board so we felt that a rule in this particular case was a good one. It really would have brought some order to what is generally an unchecked area in terms of driver fatigue.”
In fact, Garrish believes that even though sleep apnea is a major risk, it will be and is being eclipsed by the electronic logging device (ELD) debate in the U.S
“It’s unfortunate most fleets don’t know a lot about the rule and the impact this will cause,” he said. “Fleets down here have just been focused on ELDs instead of fatigue, so this rule has really been on the back burner. Now, things will just keep going the way they are and it’ll keep fleets on the sidelines. The end result of this rule not passing will be a continued delay and expense for the drivers, and a continued risk on the roadways.”
The only thing that will change that risk of future crashes caused by fatigue would be a “well put together regulation that would level the playing field for everyone,” Garrish said.
And until then, he believes the industry will suffer.
Brandon Leininger, the director of risk management at American Central Transport, a family-run trucking company based in Kansas City, Mo., agreed with Garrish saying he too was disappointed at the rule withdrawal.
“Even though it’s business as usual for now, it would have been nice to have this in black and white,” he said. “I think the industry needs a regulation on this so that it’s standard across the country. Driver health is a huge thing. Certainly, I would like to know if I have a driver who is prone to falling asleep at the wheel, with the potential to injure or kill him or herself and others on the roadways.”
In late August, SleepSafe Drivers sent a letter to the Transportation Secretary’s office explaining its support for a rule to be put in place.
“When it comes to identification and treatment for OSA, the current guidelines and recommendations are insufficient and leave room for interpretation and misinformation. A clear rule, will help commercial drivers, rail operators and others in safety sensitive roles, feel more rested, less fatigued, healthier and ultimately safer behind the controls of their equipment,” said Garrish in a release. Continued on pg 49
“Financially, we’ve seen the companies we serve actually save money in their costs associated with liability, health care, and turnover.”
When Truck News went to press, the secretary’s office had not responded.
Currently there is no rule in Canada for how to screen drivers, either. Commercial drivers in Canada require doctors to refer them for a sleep study if they suspect they may suffer from the disorder.
And in Canada, researchers at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute believe the proposal’s withdrawal isn’t the worst thing to happen.
According to Dr. Douglas Bradley, the director of the sleep research laboratory at Toronto Rehab, the link between sleep apnea and risky driving doesn’t have much research and data to back it up.
Researchers will be testing drivers for sleep apnea and then comparing results to their driving records and insurance claims.
“The research will help us see whether the presence of sleep apnea is associated with higher accident rates or higher insurance payouts,” Dr. Bradley said. “That will provide solid evidence on if we should be screening or not and if so, who? If the evidence shows a relationship, then by all means we should be screening to increase road safety and reduce cost of accidents and injuries and death. But if the relationship doesn’t occur, then we can spare a lot of people the trouble of not having to treat them if they don’t need it.”