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Just when it seemed that Republicans and Democrats couldn’t agree on anything, legislation regarding sleep apnea and long-distance truckers passed both houses of Congress unanimously. The bill is headed to President Barack Obama’s desk, and he is expected to sign it into law.
The bill, H.R. 3095, introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., requires that any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) action on sleep apnea screening go through the usual rulemaking process rather than relying on solely agency-issued guidance.
The rulemaking process would include an analysis of the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea among truck and bus drivers, the range of possible actions to address the problem, the costs and benefits of any policy, and a public comment period for industry stakeholders.
The legislation would not affect requirements for the screening, testing or treatment of truck and bus drivers for sleep disorders effective before Sept. 1, 2013, according to the bill.
After the legislation was introduced, FMCSA announced that it will address sleep disorder screening via its formal rulemaking process and not through guidance, which agency officials had indicated they intended to do as a means of quickly addressing sleep apnea in the professional driver population.
“If the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration wants to regulate sleep apnea, it should do so through the normal, established regulatory process rather than through informal guidance,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Bill Graves. “The rulemaking process allows for medical experts and the regulated community, including professional drivers, to provide valuable data and input for the agency to consider in developing its regulations.”
Bucshon and Lipinski said in a letter to their House colleagues that the estimated annual cost of screening, diagnosing and treating obstructive sleep apnea “could exceed $1 billion annually,” and that by requiring FMCSA to pursue formal rulemaking rather than issuing guidance, the rule could be properly evaluated as to whether its benefits justify the costs to the industry.
“This is not an insignificant step,” Graves said. “Taking a step as potentially costly as that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly and outside of the normal processes.”
The legislation is supported by the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, the American Bus Association, the United Motorcoach Association, the National School Transportation Association and the United Brotherhood of Teamsters.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.
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