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Public comments mixed on proposed sleep testing for truck drivers

A proposed federal rule for sleep apnea testing would affect truck drivers in South Carolina if passed. The rule could require all professional truck drivers to undergo testing for sleep apnea and possibly require that they pay for the testing out of their own pockets. Public comments on the proposal varied widely in opinion.

Sleep apnea is an obstructive disorder that can cause fatigue and difficulty in concentrating during waking hours. While many people who responded to the call for comments on the proposed testing rule acknowledged that sleep apnea in truckers is potentially dangerous, some were concerned about the validity of the science behind sleep tests and diagnoses. Others expressed anger that truckers who are not covered for these tests under their health insurance plans might have to foot the bills themselves.

Some comments in support of the proposal stressed the dangers of fatigued driving. A co-founder of the organization Road Safe America made the comment that airline pilots are required to be tested for sleep apnea, and unlike pilots who can put their planes on autopilot for periods of time, truck drivers must be alert and attentive all the time that they are on the road.

A study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that 28 percent of commercial motor vehicle drivers are affected by sleep apnea. Treatment for the condition sometimes includes the use of a continuous positive airway pressure device while sleeping.

If a truck driver has an accident on the road, many people, including the driver, could be injured. An injured driver could be entitled to workers' compensation if his or her employer provides this coverage. Most employers with multiple employees are required by law to provide workers' compensation.

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