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Proposed sleep apnea testing controversial

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania that was sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration identified obstructive sleep apnea in 28 percent of the commercial truck drivers tested by researchers. This respiratory problem creates airway blockages that disturb the sleep of people who suffer from it. The resulting poor sleep quality can impair people when they are awake and make them inattentive.

Concerned about fatigue among commercial truck drivers, the FMCSA proposed a new testing requirement for sleep apnea. During the public comment period, federal regulators received both negative and positive feedback. Most of the concerns about imposing a testing requirement centered on cost. The test for the disorder has a price tag of $2,500 to $4,000. Medical insurance would not necessarily pay for this.

On the pro side, commenters thought the proposed rule was overdue because airline pilots already undergo this testing. One person pointed out that automatic systems often operate airplanes whereas a truck driver has to be in continuous control of the vehicle. A woman whose father died in a crash caused by a sleeping truck driver said the cost of testing could not compare to the toll taken by her father's death.

Existing federal rules and regulations require commercial vehicle drivers to take at least a 30-minute rest stop within the first eight hours of their shift. There are other hours of service laws as well. A drowsy truck driver has the potential to cause an accident that results in serious injuries to people in other vehicles, and an attorney can often help an injured victim seek compensation from both the negligent driver and the carrier itself.

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