FMCSA Provides Glimpse of What Trucker Sleep Apnea Regulations May Look Like

In what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) refers to as a "clerical error," the notice of proposed rules concerning sleep apnea of truck drivers was released and withdrawn on the same day in April.

The request for public comments details some of the factors the FMCSA may consider for a final rulemaking on the issue of drivers who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a respiratory dysfunction where breathing temporarily stops, interfering with the exchange of oxygen in the lungs. The Mayo Clinic describes it as, "obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep."

This is dangerous for truck drivers because it can lead to excessive sleepiness while driving, which increases the risk of a crash. The FMCSA is charged with regulating the trucking industry and working to improve safety on the highways by reducing truck crashes.

Danger Posed by Truck Driver Fatigue

FMCSA has reported that in an average year 750 deaths and 20,000 injuries result from truck drivers suffering from fatigue and causing truck accidents.

They have been studying sleep apnea for several years, and with this release, it appears they are closer to issuing formal rules.

Some of the factors that contribute to sleep apnea that the FMCSA is considering include: drivers with a small or recessed jaw, a BMI of 35 or greater, small airway, neck sizes greater that 17 inches for males and 15.5 inches for females, Hypertension (treated or untreated), Type 2 diabetes (treated or untreated), Hypothyroidism (untreated).

The proposed rule indicates the FMCSA is considering various treatments to alleviate the effects of sleep apnea. One of the most common treatments is the use of a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which insures a constant flow of oxygen to the lungs during sleep.

Industry Opposition

Some in the trucking industry oppose the regulations as being too expensive and not being sufficiently related to reducing truck crashes, but some truck companies claim to have successfully implement programs to reduce problems caused by sleep apnea.