Trump Administration Terminates Efforts to Test Truck Drivers for Sleep Apnea, Places Public at Risk

Trump Administration Terminates Efforts to Test Truck Drivers for Sleep Apnea, Places Public at Risk

In August, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced that it will no longer focus on developing regulations for testing and monitoring commercial truck drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea, a serious disorder than can disrupt breathing and sleeping patterns. Before the announcement was made, federal regulators had been working on ways to better test, identify, and regulate drivers diagnosed with the condition.

Previous efforts to develop tighter regulations over truck drivers with sleep apnea were driven by safety advocates and researchers who pointed to the dangers of driver fatigue, which substantially increases crash risks. In fact, several studies have confirmed drivers who miss even a few hours of sleep in a night have crash risks similar to drivers with blood alcohol levels at or above the legal limit of .08. What’s more, individuals with sleep apnea require continued treatment in order to control their breathing patterns and manage symptoms. According to one study from the University of Minnesota, truckers who fail to maintain sleep apnea treatment are more than 5 times as likely to cause a serious trucking accident as those who do.

As sleep apnea can repeatedly stop and start breathing while a person is asleep, individuals with the condition commonly experience disrupted sleeping patterns and fatigue, even after a full night’s sleep. Having a tired driver on the road is always a danger to the public, but when that tired driver is behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle that can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and there are no regulations to ensure they are receiving appropriate treatment, the risks to public safety are immense.

Profits Over People: A Dangerous Precedent

The new announcement is yet another example of the Trump administration’s focus on easing government regulations and rolling back policies critical to public safety. As we have seen over recent months, the new presidential administration is one that prioritizes corporate power and profits over people and public safety.

This dangerous precedent had already been set in the transportation industry when lawmakers blocked key safety rules directly targeting tired drivers in December of last year. Specifically, they eliminated rules that required truckers to take two mandatory rest periods between the hours of 1:00 am to 5:00 am after working a full week. Additional support has been gained for other regulatory rollbacks, including:

  • Increased weight limits for commercial vehicles
  • Increased trailer length for commercial vehicles
  • Lowering the age for a commercial driver’s license from 21 to 18
  • Stopping development of new safety regulations

The trucking industry has long argued that rolling back regulations fosters growth and job creation, and it has historically flooded our politics with money and lobbyists in order to hack away at government rules and clear the path for profits. Unfortunately, that cleared path comes at the expense of public safety and the lives of innocent victims who suffer catastrophic injuries or death due to the absence of common sense policies.

That the trucking industry has found support with President Trump is not surprising, as the new administration and lawmakers not only continually seek to degrade safety regulations, but also to restructure public policies that ensure the rights of consumers and victims who face off against corporations when they suffer harm and injustices. These include new efforts to allow mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home contracts (which forces residents who have been harmed into private arbitration, where corporations hold legal leverage, rather than public courts), and proposed legislation to limit class action lawsuits and cap non-economic damages caps in medical malpractice cases.

While the trucking industry may feel victorious in compromising public safety for profit and emboldened by an administration aligned with its goals, our legal team at Biren Law Group wants to remind everyone that they can get involved and make their voices heard when it comes to opposing new efforts and laws that put profits over people. Additionally, victims and their families still have the right to seek justice through personal injury claims when negligent parties, including truckers and trucking companies, cause them harm. Our firm is passionate about helping victims protect their right, even when they face powerful insurance companies and corporations who want those rights diminished.


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