WASHINGTON, DC – The trucking industry does not want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to use “informal guidance” to address sleep apnea, and the House of Representatives agreed last week in dramatic fashion—passing HR 3095 by a vote of 405-0.
The bill, introduced earlier this month by Reps Larry Bucshon (R-Ind) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill), already has companion legislation in the Senate, thanks to Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo) and Mark Warner (D-Va). The Senate version has reportedly been referred to the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, where it awaits action.
“ATA [American Trucking Association] believes that testing alone for obstructive sleep apnea of truck drivers could cost the industry nearly $1 billion,” said ATA president and CEO Bill Graves in a statement two weeks ago. “If our industry is to be burdened with such a cost, then the FMCSA owes it to trucking to conduct a full and thorough rulemaking, including collection of scientific data and a cost-benefit analysis.”
The crux of the issue is “informal guidance” vs “rulemaking,” with rulemaking strongly favored by Congress and industry. “Trucking interests have registered deep concern about the use of a guidance, and have been pushing for the rulemaking approach,” wrote Oliver Patton in TruckingInfo. “They worry that the guidance will not give employers a clear enough statement of their legal responsibilities.”
Don Osterberg, senior vice president of Safety, Security and Driver Training for Schneider National, reportedly told Deputy Transportation Secretary John Porcari that a guidance has the effect of putting trucking companies in a tight legal spot. “It puts motor carriers in a situation where we can pick our lawsuit,” he said.