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More carriers may screen truckers for sleep apnea

The commercial trucking industry may be gearing up for increased sleep apnea screening following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April to not hear an appeal concerning this matter. Brought by a driver, the lawsuit claimed that requiring truckers to undergo sleep apnea testing because they have a body mass index of 35 or higher violates their rights under the American with Disabilities Act. Now that carriers may have less fear of being sued, the safety of motorists who share West Virginia roadways with truck drivers could be impacted by new regulatory developments moving forward.

The risk for affected truck drivers as well as other motorists on the road is that the fatigued truckers could nod off and crash into other vehicles. However, in spite of an ongoing effort, federal regulations that specifically target sleep apnea in transportation workers are not in place as of early 2017. According to one sleep health expert, a proposed rule would require truckers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea to be treated for the medical condition in order to drive.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has said that drivers who have a condition that may keep them from operating their vehicles safely cannot be required nor permitted to drive commercially. Because obesity may be an indicator of sleep apnea, two advisory committees have recommended that drivers with a BMI of 35 or higher be required to undergo sleep testing. The process may be expensive, and some drivers may be expected to cover the costs.

Although FMCSA has not yet acted on any recommendations, motorists in West Virginia who are seriously injured in a semi-truck accident caused by truck driver fatigue may want to seek legal counsel. It might be advisable to file a lawsuit seeking compensation from the at-fault driver as well as the trucking company itself.

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