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Safety agencies want truck drivers tested for sleep apnea

A rule proposed in March by two federal safety agencies would require commercial truck drivers and certain railroad workers in Oklahoma and around the country to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration hope that the measure will reduce the number of accidents caused by fatigue, but several members of the public who submitted comments about the proposal were concerned about the costs of the testing.

Many of the respondents felt that it was unfair to expect workers to pay for the costs of obstructive sleep apnea testing, which can be as high as several thousand dollars when an overnight hospital stay is required. Other comments received from the public called for changes to the hours of service rules for truck drivers that would allow them to take rest breaks during their shifts without reducing the amount of time that they can spend on duty.

Individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are often unable to sleep through the night due to partial or complete obstructions of their upper air passages. This can lead to dangerous levels of fatigue the following day. A study sponsored by the FMCSA discovered that about 28 percent of the country's commercial truck drivers suffer from the condition. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the proposed regulation and has called for more research into the link between OSA and truck accidents.

Accidents involving semi-tractor trailers often lead to serious injury or death, and the is especially true when a fatigued truck driver is behind the wheel. The investigations into this type of accident are usually thorough, and personal injury attorneys may study these reports closely for indications that negligent behavior played a role.

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