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Bills proposed to force FMCSA's action on sleep apnea rule

Mississippi truck drivers who have sleep apnea may carry higher risks of causing accidents. Sleep apnea, a disorder that causes people to stop breathing multiple times per night, disrupting their sleep, may cause truck drivers to be fatigued and drowsy while they are behind the wheel. In August, the Department of Transportation announced that it was withdrawing a rule that would have provided guidelines for when drivers should be referred for sleep apnea screening.

In reaction, Democrats in both the Senate and the House have proposed legislation that would force the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to implement the sleep apnea rule. During 2016, the FMCSA worked on the proposed rule, holding public meetings and seeking input from trucking industry stakeholders. It also took suggestions from its Medical Advisory Board.

The rule would provide guidelines to doctors, truck drivers and carriers about the criteria that should form the basis of referrals for sleep apnea testing. Currently, medical examiners and carriers rely on many different types of screening tools to determine when to refer drivers for testing, which has resulted in confusion in the industry.

Truck drivers who have sleep apnea may improve with treatment, helping to reduce their risk of causing truck accidents. When drivers cause accidents because they are fatigued or drowsy, injured victims may have the legal grounds to file lawsuits against the drivers and the carriers for whom they work. By filing civil lawsuits, the injured victims may hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence. They may also recover damages so that they can be compensated for the losses that they have suffered. Personal injury lawyers who are experienced with truck accident cases may help build strong cases for their clients.

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