Now you see it, now you don’t. While most in trucking in 2016 thought a final rule on obstructive sleep apnea would arrive three or four years down the road or sooner, that may or may not be the case since the U.S. Department of Transportation has recently decided to back off on a final rule on OSA, according to news reports.
It’s back to the guidance that functions as a rule but isn’t one, commented a driver with sleep apnea.
“Withdrawal of the rulemaking will continue the ‘no-rule rules’ drivers currently deal with where medical examiners do whatever they want. Even if it was a bad rule, regulations on sleep apnea would be better,” said Bob Stanton, co-coordinator of Truckers For a Cause, a support group for CMV drivers under OSA treatment.
“The reason they refer to it as the ‘no-rule, rule’ is because at this point in time, no rule exists regarding sleep apnea, yet medical examiners are testing for it based upon the guidance issued by FMCSA for certified medical examiners,” noted David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association. “There has been no rulemaking, ever, on this, yet MEs are testing for it.”
The road to a final obstructive sleep apnea rule has been chock full of potholes.
Not counting this most recent decision by DOT, the last pothole in the road was a discrepancy that came to light last year between how the Federal Aviation Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration view trucker health exams.
FAA’s guidance to aviation medical examiners or AMEs, said, “No pilot is deferred or denied unless there’s an immediate safety hazard and no pilot is deferred on BMI (body mass index) alone.”
The Medical Review Board of FMCSA, on the other hand, recommended that a truck driver with a BMI of 40 or more would have to get a mandatory OSA screening and a driver with a BMI of 33 or more would have to receive screening if he or she also has three of a number of risk factors, including being age 42 and male and incidences of “loud snoring,” which could cover a huge swath of the driver population, said Heller at the time. He added that there would be a huge budgetary impact on the industry if those recommendations made it into a final rule.
How long a sleep apnea rule is sidelined is unclear.