Feds are Ignoring Truck Safety Once Again This Year
The Trump Administration has recently announced that it no longer plans to pursue requirements for sleep apnea testing of commercial truck drivers and train operators. This comes in the wake of scrapping the development of requirements for speed limiters on commercial trucks.
In recent years, many truck accidents and train crashes have later been attributed to the driver having undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that causes a person to stop breathing many times during the night – sometimes hundreds of times. Each time, the body needs to wake itself up to start breathing again, which means that sleep can be interrupted constantly every night.
Many people with sleep apnea are not even aware of all of the disruptions in their sleep and may not realize how much these disruptions affect their fatigue level during the day. They may get used to feeling fatigue, however, a fatigued mind can cause many impairments in abilities – including driving. Some effects of fatigue behind the wheel include:
- Lack of ability to focus
- Decreased reflexes and reaction times
- Increased tendency for the mind to wander
- Chance of nodding off or falling completely asleep while driving
Fatigued driving is responsible for many commercial truck accidents – often because some truck drivers will violate the hours of service rules set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). However, even if a truck driver complies with all hours of service limits, they still may be at risk of causing a fatigued driving accident if they have untreated sleep apnea.
How Testing Can Help the Problem
When sleep apnea is properly diagnosed and treated, a person can regain healthy sleep habits with fewer interruptions. This can lead to greater concentration and greater enjoyment of their awake time. Without any treatment, people with sleep apnea can be fatigued almost every day of their lives, which can affect their professional and personal lives.
In September of 2016, a train operator in New Jersey crashed, causing fatalities. The operator was later found to have undiagnosed sleep apnea and may have fallen asleep at the controls. After this deadly accident, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) warned that it was highly important to regulate testing for sleep apnea and similar disorders in order to limit the chances of fatigued driving accidents. The FMCSA also got on board in regard to testing for commercial truck drivers. The Obama Administration began the work of implementing a new regulation requiring truck drivers to be screened for sleep apnea as part of their regular medical evaluations.
If drivers would be tested, they would receive a proper diagnosis of the condition and could receive the treatment they need to prevent fatigue during the day and when they are behind the wheel. Many safety advocacy groups supported the new testing requirements.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration seems more focused on eliminating federal regulations than it does on truck and train safety. The FRA and FMCSA announced they are no longer pursuing this type of regulation. Safety groups have loudly spoken out against this decision, saying it puts motorists on the roads of the United States in unnecessary danger.
Truck drivers already must pass a medical examination before they can receive their commercial driver’s license. This exam seeks to identify any potential health conditions that can lead to an adverse emergency health event on the road. Such health events can include:
- Heart attack
- Loss of muscle abilities
For example, if a truck driver has uncontrolled diabetes, they likely would not be approved because of the risks of seizure. The same may be true for unchecked heart disease due to the risk of a heart attack. Either of these events would almost certainly cause a driver to lose control of the truck and crash. However, if a truck driver has heart disease or diabetes that is properly diagnosed and obeys a careful treatment program to control the risks, the risks of an adverse event and accident substantially decrease and they may be able to receive a commercial driver’s license.
The same would be true for sleep apnea testing of truck drivers. The testing is not intended to eliminate every truck driver who tests positive for sleep apnea. Instead, it would aim to make sure that every driver with sleep apnea is undergoing a treatment plan that reduces their fatigue as much as possible. Having a requirement in place as part of the standard health evaluation would make our highways safer.
So What Happens Now?
The federal agencies are stating that instead of enacting this regulation, it will leave the decision of whether to test for sleep apnea to each individual truck company. This is dangerous as it is unlikely that every trucking company will change its policies to begin mandatory testing of all drivers.
In the meantime, every driver on the road should watch out for erratic driving of trucks and other signs that a truck driver may be falling asleep or losing focus. In the tragic event, you are in a truck accident, you need qualified representation from a truck accident law firm as soon as possible. Our attorneys know how to identify when a crash occurred because of fatigued driving to help you recover for your losses.
Contact a Clearwater Truck Accident Attorney for More Information Today
Anyone who has witnessed or been involved in a commercial truck accident knows how devastating these crashes can be. Truck accident victims can sustain very serious injuries that can affect their lives – sometimes permanently. There is no excuse for trucking companies or truck drivers acting in a dangerous manner that results in additional and unnecessary risks of a crash.
At Dolman Law Group, our truck accident attorneys are dedicated to representing the rights of truck accident victims and holding negligent drivers and companies fully liable for any accident and injury-related losses. To schedule your free consultation after a truck accident in the Clearwater area, please contact our office at 727-451-6900 today.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765