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Sleep apnea bill may benefit truckers in Louisiana

In August of 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officially withdrew a bill meant to set up criteria for obstructive sleep apnea testing among truck operators. The FMCSA had been working on the bill throughout the previous year, taking up suggestions made by the Medical Advisory Board and setting up public meetings with trucking industry stakeholders. It was dropped at the pre-rule stage.

This has led Democrats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives to file two separate bills demanding that the FMCSA institute a screening rule. The support of Democrats in both chambers of Congress had prompted the FMCSA’s initial efforts.

Those in favor of a sleep apnea bill state that it would clarify what medical examiners and employers need to look for when determining that a truck driver should undergo in-lab sleep apnea testing. Supporters also argue that drivers themselves will benefit from knowing the criteria.

The bill is intended to clear up the confusion caused by the existence of several screening protocols and thus decrease the number of cases where truck drivers complain of unwarranted referrals. The lack of regulations has led many drivers to suspect that sleep apnea testing companies, treatment device manufacturers and doctors are cashing in on an inherently gray area.

Sleep apnea may be a cause of truck accidents, so screening regulations, or the lack of them, can affect a personal injury case. A lawyer may be able to assess the victim’s claim and investigate to build up evidence of negligence. The lawyer may put the emphasis on the driver’s “ordinary negligence” in not having the condition treated or on the trucking company’s “professional negligence” in not taking steps to protect its employee. The lawyer might negotiate for a settlement with the trucking company’s own legal team.

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