Department of Transportation Seeks Input on Sleep Apnea: UCAOA Issues Call for Volunteers to Respond
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On March 10, 2016, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking which requests data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) among motor carrier workers, including information about whether motor carrier workers who exhibit multiple risk factors for OSA should be required to undergo evaluation and treatment by a healthcare professional with expertise in sleep disorders.

FMCSA’s advisory criteria providing interpretive guidance to medical examiners concerning physician qualification standards have been unchanged since 2000. This guidance provides the determination of whether a driver meets the respiratory standard. Current guidance requires certified medical examiners to refer a driver to a specialist for further evaluation and therapy if a respiratory dysfunction is detected that may interfere with the operation of a motor vehicle. The FMCSA argues, however, that current guidance isn’t helpful if the medical examiner doesn’t have expertise in detecting OSA, or if the driver is not forthcoming about a previous OSA diagnosis. 

In 2012, detailed recommendations for addressing OSA from the Medical Review Board and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee were released. However, implementing these recommendations were effectively blocked by Congress by requiring FMCSA to go through a formal rulemaking process with public comment before any new or revised requirements concerning OSA can be issued. 

In December 2014, UCAOA leaders conveyed to FMCSA officials confusion among commercial vehicle companies and their drivers about OSA screening requirements. On Jan. 12, 2015, FMCSA issued a bulletin to certified medical examiners which clarified that FMCSA’s physical qualifications standards and advisory criteria do not provide OSA screening, diagnosis or treatment guidelines for medical examiners to use in determining whether an individual should be issued a medical certificate, but that medical examiners may exercise their medical judgment and expertise in determining whether a driver exhibits risk factors for having OSA and that medical examiners should explain to drivers the basis of their decision if a medical certificate is issued for less than two years or is denied. 

It is expected that FMCSA will propose new regulations for OSA screening, testing and treatment later this year.

In the recently released advance notice of proposed rulemaking, FCSMA specifically requests public comment on 20 questions, including a question about the qualifications and credentials for a medical practitioner who performs OSA screenings.

UCAOA will provide comment on these questions and is soliciting the expertise of UCAOA members to help with this process. 

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