The Trump administration recently withdrew a proposed FMCSA requirement put to paper a year ago that railroad and trucking companies test employees for obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder believed to be at the heart of a great number of truck and rail crashes over the decades.
In announcing that they were withdrawing the proposal, the FMCSA, along with the Federal Railroad Administration, said they would rather trucking companies voluntarily screen their employees, rather than being mandated to do so.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition. Those who suffer from it rarely get a good, quality night’s sleep. This can result in daytime drowsiness and fatigue. As reported by the National Institutes of Health, sleep apnea is a condition that rarely winds up getting diagnosed.
Those that suffer from sleep apnea could find themselves having unintended sleep episodes. They could also suffer from decreased situational awareness and responsiveness, resulting in a reduced capacity to respond to hazards or safely operate something like a heavy-duty Classs 8 motor vehicle.
The proposed rule was part of a requirement instigated by the December 2013 derailment of a Metro-North train in New York. The train jumped the tracks on a curve designed for 30 mph travel. It was going 82 mph when it derailed, killing four people and injuring many others.
When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the crash, they determined that the train engineer had undiagnosed sleep apnea. There is also some belief that sleep apnea may have played a part in the New Jersey Transit commuter train crash that killed one person when it hit the end-of-track barrier going twice the speed it should have been going.
Still, this doesn’t mean that sleep apnea is totally to blame. The NTSB also reported that both crashes could have easily been prevented by using a Positive Train Control system, which automated the process of slowing or stopping the train when the situation requires it.
How to Uncover if You Have Sleep Apnea
There are a number of ways to spot if you might have sleep apnea. The problem is, most people are sleeping when the signs exhibit themselves, so they may have no idea they have it.
If you find yourself waking up in the morning with a headache, feel lethargic throughout the day, or wake periodically throughout the night?
If so, you may have what is technically called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). People who suffer from OSA find their airways closed off and breathing interrupted, thus depriving you of oxygen periodically throughout the night. Usually, an individual’s partner will be the first person to spot the signs of OSA.
If you are being witnessed waking up repeatedly during the night, even if you have no recollection of it, this may be a sign of OSA. For someone who has severe OSA, this can happen repeatedly up to hundred times or more throughout a given night.
According to some estimates, OSA impacts more than 18 million Americans. If you feel you may suffer from sleep apnea, a sleep study can help you firmly make that determination. Snoring or loud breathing during sleep is often the most common sign of OSA.
Still, that majority of people who snore don’t necessarily have OSA.
No matter who is in the White House or what regulations may or may not be in play tomorrow or today, it is important to take a good measure of your own health and ensure you are properly diagnosed if you may be suffering from a condition that could impact your ability to safely operate a heavy-duty Class 8 commercial motor vehicle.
Safety is always paramount, and there’s no reason your motor carrier wouldn’t work with you if you think you may suffer from OSA.