Is it mandatory for commercial truck drivers to be tested for sleep apnea? Can they keep their job if they receive a sleep apnea diagnosis? Who is responsible for conducting the tests? What regulations – if any – has the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established?
Those are just a few of the many questions that have been circulating.
In fact, this is such a hot button topic that the managing editor of Land Line magazine, a business publication for professional truckers, wrote a cover story about it for the May 2014 issue.
According to Land Line, there’s a common misconception that the FMCSA has mandated sleep apnea testing for all Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders.
Currently, however, this isn’t the case. While there aren’t any regulations in place regarding sleep apnea testing, the FMCSA has established a set of guidelines that medical examiners are directed to follow when certifying commercial truck drivers.
The FMCSA elaborates on the difference between “regulations” and “guidelines” in the FMCSA Medical Examiner Handbook, stating the following:
“Regulations/standards are laws and must be followed. Whereas guidelines, such as advisory criteria and medical conference reports, are recommendations. While not law, the guidelines are intended as best practices for medical examiners.”
This essentially means that sleep apnea testing is up to the discretion of the medical examiner. Once a medical examiner diagnoses a commercial truck driver with sleep apnea, the FMCSA guidelines direct the medical examiner to wait at least one month after the driver has begun treatment before certifying or recertifying that individual. But again – these are just guidelines.
That being said, Land Line reports that medical examiners are under a lot of pressure to ensure that they’re only certifying safe commercial truck drivers. For example, if medical examiners incorrectly certify a driver as medically qualified, they could face steep fines. Not only that, but they could be held partially liable if a driver with a disqualifying medical condition gets into an accident.
The good news is that sleep apnea is highly treatable, meaning that commercial truck drivers who are diagnosed with this disorder can manage their symptoms with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and other methods of treatment.
Here at Better Rest Solutions, we recently developed a white paper that explores the issue of sleep apnea among commercial truck drivers. Click here to download the white paper.
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