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FMCSA proposes sleep apnea test for commercial truck drivers

Thousands of road users are seriously injured or killed each year in North Carolina and around the country in traffic accidents caused by fatigued motorists. This type of crash can be particularly dangerous when the tired driver is behind the wheel of a semi-tractor trailer. This is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed a rule that would require commercial truck drivers to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea.

Earlier this year, the public was invited to submit comments about the proposed regulation. Many of the 593 responses received focused on the cost of taking an obstructive sleep apnea test. Some respondents said that sleep apnea tests are notoriously difficult to pass and requiring truck drivers to take them would do little to make the nation's roads safer. Others accepted that the tests could improve road safety but were concerned about truck drivers being forced to pay for testing out of their own pockets.

The upper airways of individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are prone to becoming partially or fully blocked during the night. This can lead to drowsiness and inattention during the day. Some of the public responses to the FMCSA proposal suggested that the problem of drowsy truck drivers could be better addressed by revising the hours of service rules. They pointed out that truck drivers are currently discouraged from taking rest breaks because doing so would eat into the limited time that they can spend on duty.

Fatigued drivers often perk up significantly after a crash. Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult for police officers to determine that drowsiness played a role in an accident. This can also make it challenging to establish negligence in a commercial truck accident lawsuit when driver fatigue is suspected. However, a personal injury attorney may be able to study hours of service and truck data records when accident investigations are inconclusive.

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