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Federal agencies considering sleep apnea rule

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration received 593 comments regarding whether the agencies should begin regulating the treatment and diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea in certain transportation-related occupations in Texas and around the country. According to a University of Pennsylvania study sponsored by the FMCSA, 28 percent of commercial drivers suffer from some level of OSA.

The issue is poignant for drivers because OSA causes disruption in sleep patterns, which may result in fatigue behind the wheel. Some critics of the proposed rule said it would be a mistake to force semi-truck drivers or carrier companies to cover the costs of testing and treatment. Some suggested amending FMCSA rules to allow for drivers to pull off and take naps without using on-duty time. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association said it would oppose any screening requirements until the FMCSA could conclusively identify OSA as the cause of a significant number of accidents.

Proponents of the proposed rule compared truck drivers to airline pilots, noting that the latter are required to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea. One commenter related the story of her father's death, the result of a sleeping semi truck driver slamming into her father's car.

Those who have been injured in truck accidents caused by a sleep-deprived truck driver might want to meet with an attorney to see what recourse they have. In the event that the driver flouted federal regulations by staying on the road for too many hours, there is a possibility that a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses and other losses could be successful.

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