November 15, 2016 2:20 PM, EST

OOIDA Asks Appeals Court to Vacate Medical Examiners Certification Rule

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has asked an appeals court to throw out a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration final rule on medical examiners’ certification integration that failed to include guidelines for examiners to diagnose whether truck drivers have obstructive sleep apnea.

OOIDA said FMCSA issued a final rule in April 2015 that required certified medical examiners, who perform physicals on drivers of commercial motor vehicles, to use a new medical form, but an appendix on sleep apnea was not included in the proposed rulemaking.

In a Nov. 9 legal brief, OOIDA said it would explain its request for review more in detail by Dec. 19.

In a joint meeting Oct. 24, the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and its Medical Review Board forwarded a slate of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea risk factor recommendations that the agency could use to enact a formal regulatory requirement for truck and bus drivers to take diagnostic sleep studies that on average cost more than $1,200.

With few exceptions, the recommendations closely followed the Medical Review Board’s guidance issued in August.

Among the recommendations would be a requirement that medical examiners refer truck and bus drivers to sleep experts for diagnostic tests if they have a body mass index of 40 or higher. Those drivers would be granted a 90-day window to complete the testing and get treatment if diagnosed with sleep apnea.

Drivers also would immediately be disqualified if they experience excessive fatigue or sleepiness while driving, have been in a sleep-related crash or observed falling asleep at the wheel.

In March, FMCSA and the Federal Railroad Administration announced they are seeking public input for 90 days on the effects of screening, evaluating and treating commercial motor vehicle drivers and rail workers for obstructive sleep apnea.

In previous comments regarding the final rule, OOIDA has said drivers are the ones forced to pay for the arbitrary standards.

“These practices pull safe drivers off the road for protracted periods of time and force them to spend thousands of dollars on unwarranted tests and expensive exams,” OOIDA said. “In worst-case situations, safe driving careers are ended and small businesses are forced to close. OOIDA members have experienced these consequences first hand on too many occasions.”