Sleep apnea bill signed into law by President Obama

November 06, 2013
Sleep apnea bill signed into law by President Obama

Sleep Apnea Bill Signed into Law

A new bill calling on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) to define rules for sleep apnea testing for commercial drivers was signed into law by President Obama on October 15. And this may come as something of a shock to those who have followed American politics in recent months: According to Bloomberg Law, this sleep apnea bill (H.R. 3095) passed the House and the Senate unanimously.

So, what is this new sleep apnea law? In simple terms, the new law requires the FMCSA to pursue a rule-making process to require that commercial truck and bus drivers be tested for sleep apnea as part of their medical certification.

Last year, the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and Medical Review Board proposed doing just that. Overdrive magazine reports that the agency tentatively suggested that all drivers with a “body-mass-index measurement of 35 or greater” could face mandatory sleep apnea testing. That proposal was quickly withdrawn, but it strongly suggests that such regulations are in the works. This law gives the commercial driving industry time to prepare for it.

The law also helps make sure that commercial drivers aren’t forced into sleep apnea testing simply because they’re overweight. That could unfairly single out obese drivers — remember, although obesity and sleep apnea are closely related, the presence of one does not guarantee the other.

“Trucking industry stakeholders, including drivers, are pleased with the law because it will allow a full airing of the matter and offer opportunities for input in a prescribed, scientific and cost analysis-based manner,” reports Larry Kahaner for Fleet Owner magazine.

What does the sleep apnea law mean for you?
While it’s true that this sleep apnea law applies only to commercial drivers, it isn’t necessarily true that they’re the only ones who are affected. For instance, you could be impacted if you commute to work via the bus. And your family could be affected if your children ride the bus to school.

This new law requires “that any action taken be done via a long-standing process that includes stakeholder input and a cost-benefit analysis,” said Max Christensen, President of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (via School Bus Fleet magazine). “All of us have the goal to reduce sleep disorder-induced accidents and improve safety.”

Most importantly, the sleep apnea law also demonstrates a growing awareness of sleep disorders in the public eye, especially at a time when the risks of driving with sleep disorders are becoming more publicized.