White House withdraws proposal to screen truck drivers for sleep apnea

White House withdraws proposal to screen truck drivers for sleep apnea

Are regulations major job killers?

The Trump administration, as part of a broader effort to fight "major job killing" regulations, has withdrawn a proposed requirement for truck drivers to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. The Obama-era proposal came after a series of fatal incidents involving truckers or railroad engineers who'd fallen asleep on the job. A closer look at the condition and its cost ignites a heated debate about insurance, job growth, and employer responsibility:

Why did the Obama administration propose a test?

Sleep-disordered breathing affects at least one in ten adults, but it doesn't prevent sleep, instead preventing deep, restorative cycles. So, it can creep up on an individual, hence the idea of testing people who would be operating and transporting heavy machinery.
The rate of obstructive sleep apnea is rising, too: It's closely linked to obesity, and new analysis suggests that "about 38 percent of U.S. adults aged 20 and older are obese..."
"It's very hard to argue that people aren't being put at risk. We cannot have someone who is in that condition operating either a train going 70 mph or operating a multi-ton truck traveling down the interstate," said Sarah Feinberg, the former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

But the test is expensive, and many companies won't cover fees for their employees:

The Journal of American Medicine Association recently stated that the condition does not necessitate screening everyone, but it does consider that "persons who work in safety-sensitive transportation occupations (e.g., truck drivers or rail operators) have unique testing needs.”
However, many companies in the trucking-industry don't cover the costs of a test, which can run up to $1,500 out-of-pocket:
"Whatever the number, those drivers would face expensive testing, often paid for by the driver, and sometimes the loss of income due to time away from work," wrote Todd Dills of Overdrive.

The FRA and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) argue that its up to companies to test:

Absent any regulation, the onus of responsibility is now on the trucker or railroad worker in the event of an accident. Trucking and railroad companies are now arguing that each company to test prospective employees for the fatigue-inducing condition.
The NY-based Metro-North has tested its own engineers and found that 11.6 percent have sleep apnea.

Are regulations major job killers?