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Sleep apnea rule spurs a reaction

Truck drivers and railroad workers in Oklahoma and across the country may soon be required to be screened for obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can produce frequent interruption in breathing while an individual is sleeping. The respiratory condition affects 28 percent of drivers of commercial motor vehicles and can contribute to distraction and diminished functionality when an individual is awake. Such effects can make the resultant impaired driving a safety issue, placing others on the road at risk.

The proposal, which is backed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration, generated a substantial reaction from the public. Commenters questioned whether it was appropriate for the agencies to monitor the diagnosis and treatment of the respiratory condition for transportation workers. Many objected to requiring the commercial vehicle drivers or the carriers to pay for the exams and treatments, which can be extremely costly.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association stated its opposition to the screening requirement. It asserted that the FMCSA and the FRA should provide proof that the study of sleep apnea is necessary and that the condition is a contributing factor to a substantial number of truck accidents.

However, other organizations agreed that the screenings should take place. According to a representative of Road Safe America, truck drivers, who are required to give driving their full attention, should be subject to sleep apnea screening just as airline pilots are.

Inadequate sleep can impair the judgment and reaction time of truck drivers and can result in an accident that causes catastrophic injuries to others who are on the road. When truck drivers fail to take their required rest breaks and others are injured as a result, an attorney could assist a victim in seeking compensation for medical expenses and other losses.

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