Sleep foundation criticizes trucker screening bill

Arlington, VA – The National Sleep Foundation, which advocates research and treatment of sleep disorders, has come out against a Senate bill (S. 1537) that could prevent or delay new requirements for mandatory screening of truck and bus drivers to detect obstructive sleep apnea.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has indicated it may release guidance advising medical examiners to screen all bus and truck drivers with risk factors for developing OSA during drivers’ medical certification exams.

However, the bill, introduced Sept. 23 as a companion legislation to a Sept. 12 House bill, would restrict FMCSA to issue OSA screening requirements only through a formal rulemaking process.

In an Oct. 3 letter sent to Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), National Sleep Foundation CEO David M. Cloud said that going against the judgment of FMCSA’s Medical Review Board – which recommended the guidance – is a “dangerous precedent” and does not improve roadway safety or the health of drivers.

Truck and bus drivers with OSA, which is characterized by breathing pauses during sleep, may experience daytime sleepiness and other adverse effects.

At press time, the Senate bill had been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. The House bill (H.R. 3095) passed both the House and Senate and at press time was awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature.