Sleep Apnea Testing Rule Proposed by Department of Transportation

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As part of an ongoing effort to improve railroad and motor carrier safety across the country, a rule recently proposed jointly by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) would require personnel in safety-sensitive positions to be tested for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

A known cause of dangerous levels of drowsiness, OSA has been identified as a factor in multiple commercial vehicle accidents across a range of transportation modes.

Sleep apnea blamed for high profile crashes

According to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a number of serious accident events were caused by specific, identifiable medical conditions suffered by someone in a key operational role, including sleep-related disorders. The Bronx train derailment in 2013, which killed four and injured 60 individuals was ultimately attributed to the engineer’s undiagnosed sleep apnea that caused him to doze off at the controls.

Following the crash, the Metro-North railroad conducted an examination of 320 train engineers and discovered that almost 18 percent of them in fact had sleep apnea. Researchers from the NTSB have suggested that obstructive sleep apnea has played a significant role in no less than nine major incidents dating back to 2001.

Rule would extend testing to new group of workers

Airline pilots are already subject to mandatory sleep apnea testing, but as of now, railroad and motor carrier personnel are not required to undergo similar screening. Experts have argued that the risks posed by the condition when suffered by safety-critical rail and roadway staff call for an expansion of such tests. It has been estimated that over 25 million individuals in the United States have undiagnosed sleep apnea, underscoring the importance of identifying and treating the condition in those whose jobs have the potential to impact the safety of a large number of people.

The proposed rule will now enter a formal process that starts with a 90-day comment period marked by public fact-finding and research sessions in several cities across the country. After those steps are complete, it will be determined whether or not rail and motor carrier personnel will be required be tested and/or treated for sleep apnea. According to Federal Railroad Administration head Sarah Feinberg, the sooner affected individuals are identified and helped, the safer everyone will be.

Liability in drowsy and negligent driving cases

While it is certainly true that negligent truck drivers or train engineers need to be held responsible for the harm they have caused, it should be noted that liability can also attach to additional parties deemed to have involvement.

This is true even if those potential defendants initially seem rather far-removed from the events in question. Depending on the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the crash event, it may be possible for victims to file a claim against:

  • Railroad operators or commercial trucking enterprises

  • Maintenance and repair contractors

  • Equipment manufacturers

  • Parts suppliers

  • Freight loading personnel

Fighting for South Carolina accident victims

When the negligent acts or omissions of another have caused serious injury and lasting harm, it is important for victims to vigorously assert their right to fair compensation. The South Carolina personal injury lawyers at The Jeffcoat Firm stands ready to help residents pursue full accountability and the financial recovery they deserve. To discuss the specific facts of your case, call (803) 200-2000 to arrange a free consultation.

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