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Medical examiners to have discretion in sleep apnea referrals

An existing sleep apnea screening policy for truckers will remain in place following the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's withdrawal of a proposed rule. Although the agency pursued work on the rule throughout 2016, officials now say that the current sleep apnea protocol is sufficient, which may leave motorists in Louisiana and other states across the country wanting to know more.

Federal officials had intended to clarify a regulation that many in the trucking industry have found confusing. As current policy stands, sleep apnea screening lacks consistency because medical examiners base referrals on different sets of protocols. Physicians, testing companies and associated manufacturers may have profited unfairly as a result, according to some drivers who claim that they have received unwarranted referrals.

Aspects of the withdrawn rule were also problematic. Data collected in connection with screening criteria proposed in 2016 indicated that as many as 40 percent of truck drivers could potentially be impacted by the high costs that often accompany apnea testing and treatment. Owner-operators and fleets could also be adversely affected.

For now, the FMCSA is encouraging medical examiners to use their own judgment in the matter. If examiners believe that a driver cannot safely control and drive a commercial motor vehicle due to the condition, they are encouraged to refer that driver for testing.

Withdrawal of the rule may concern Louisiana residents who must share the roadway with large commercial vehicles. People who are injured in an accident caused by truck driver fatigue exacerbated by sleep apnea may want to meet with an attorney to determine how best to seek compensation for the losses that they have sustained.

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