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FMCSA withdraws sleep apnea screening criteria

Mississippi truck drivers and their employers should be aware that a rule that would have established requirements for sleep apnea screening was officially withdrawn on Aug. 7. The rule would have given medical examiners, drivers and carriers the criteria needed to refer a driver to an in-lab apnea test as well as protocols for the treatment of the sleep apnea.

It was hinted that this rule was on the chopping block in July, though no official notice was given until Aug. 4. In the withdrawal notice, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration stated that the current protocol on determining eligibility for sleep apnea screening was sufficient. This protocol relies on medical examiners to determine if the driver's sleep apnea could in any way interfere with his or her ability to safely drive a commercial truck or vehicle.

The current policy allows medical examiners to rely on one of a number of different sets of protocols. This has caused confusion in the past. Some drivers receive unwanted referrals for apnea testing companies, the manufacturers of sleep apnea treatment devices and doctors who the drivers feel may not have their best interests in mind. However, if the proposed policy had passed, as many as 40 percent of all truck drivers could have been required to be screened for apnea.

If truck drivers have sleep apnea, the condition can prevent them from getting a restful night's sleep, potentially causing them to fall asleep at the wheel. Truck accidents caused by sleep-deprived truck drivers can cause serious injuries to occupants of other vehicles, who might want to have legal assistance in seeking compensation for their losses from the at-fault driver and his or her employer.

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