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Increasing Standards for Sleepy Truck Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed stricter standards for commercial driver sleep apnea. These proposals recommend medical examiners to thoroughly evaluate and rule out sleep apnea as a condition for these drivers. The recommendations have been presented from the medical community, an advisory panel from the trucking industry, and various advocacy interests including labor and safety.

Specifically, it was recommended that any driver with the body mass index of 35 or greater should be evaluated for sleep apnea by the medical examiner. The regulation of 35 was determined to be a decisive indicator of sleep apnea. Those who have a higher body mass index, have a stronger likelihood of being diagnosed with sleep apnea. Although it is a request at the moment, the FMCSA and panels believe that in the near future, this screening process will be mandated for all drivers.

Once tested and compliant in undergoing treatment, the driver will be qualified to drive again. By taking these drivers off the road temporarily, the risk of a driver falling asleep or having decreased job performance due to fatigue will be lessened, thus making the roads safer for all drivers. Driving while fatigued due to sleep apnea can result in a driver having a slower reaction time and having larger lapses of attention. Charles Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, stated that “The crash risk for a person with sleep apnea is 242% greater than a person without the disorder.”

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