Public Input Sought on how Sleep Apnea Impacts Commercial Drivers

It is estimated that 22 million men and women could be suffering from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep.

That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that it’s seeking public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating rail workers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers for OSA.

“It is imperative for everyone’s safety that commercial motor vehicle drivers and train operators be fully focused and immediately responsive at all times,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “DOT strongly encourages comment from the public on how to best respond to this national health and transportation safety issue.”

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.

As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

How it impacts driving:

Undiagnosed or inadequately treated moderate to severe OSA can cause unintended sleep episodes and deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, memory, and the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive service.

For individuals with OSA, eight hours of sleep can be less refreshing than four hours of ordinary, uninterrupted sleep, according to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The size and scope of the potential problem means that OSA presents a critical safety issue for all modes and operations in the transportation industry.

Public input details:

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is also seeking public input. The joint Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is the first step as both agencies consider whether to propose requirements specifically on OSA. FRA and FMCSA will host three public listening sessions to gather input on OSA in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles. For more details, click here.

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