FMCSA Cracking Down On Sleep Disorders

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has announced a meeting to take place in August to discuss a new set of rules for truckers with sleep disorders. The meeting will include the agency's Medical Review Board and Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, with members from different industries and groups appointed to provide feedback and ideas.

The scheduling of the meeting doesn't guarantee a new set of laws. The meeting's purpose is to discuss the much-hyped issue of sleep disorders, especially sleep apnea, in crashes involving large trucks.

Safety standards and practices in the commercial carrier industry have been in the spotlight recently. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration one out of nine traffic fatalities involved a large truck in 2008.

Current industry regulations do not require any kind of testing or treatment of sleep abnormalities.

A proposed list would provide criteria to judge commercial license certification in regards to medical capability. Some of these disqualifications include having been involved in a crash resulting from falling asleep while driving or failing to complete prescribed treatment for a sleep disorder.

Ken Abbott, vice president of safety policy at American Trucking Associations, is a supporter of the potential changes.

"We do think it's appropriate to begin to look at ... more meaningful and effective ways to address driver fatigue, rather than simply looking at hours of service limitations," said Abbott.

According to a NHTSA study on drowsy driving, typical trucking accidents involving driver fatigue occur late at night, in the early morning or mid-afternoon. They are usually serious and occur on high speed roads, such as interstates. The driver is usually alone in the vehicle and usually will not try to avoid the crash at all.

Drivers ages sixteen through twenty are at risk for fatigue, especially males. Workers on irregular shift patterns or those with long daily commutes are also at risk.

Regular sleep loss, poor driving patterns, using sedative medications, alcohol and untreated sleep disorders all can contribute and interact to unfortunately affect our focus while driving.

The Medical Review Board has been advocating for tougher requirements for certain health conditions for truck driver applicants and employees for years. The agency has brought up other concerns besides sleep apnea and other sleep disorders such as cardiovascular disease, renal disease, and seizures.