Moving the HME Industry Forward

Respiratory/Sleep

Rulemaking on Sleep Apnea Favored by Truckers and Congress

September 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – The trucking industry does not want the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to use “informal guidance” to address sleep apnea. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee agreed, quickly approving a bill that would instead require “rulemaking.”  

“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. “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 bill, introduced by Reps Larry Bucshon (R-Ind) and Dan Lipinski (D – Ill) reportedly has broad bipartisan support, already garnering nearly 50 cosponsors. “While FMCSA has said they are receptive to a rulemaking process in lieu of sleep apnea guidance, we urge the House and Senate to follow through with swift approval of HR 3095,” said Graves.

“FMCSA will issue a notice to address obstructive sleep apnea through the formal rulemaking process after collecting and analyzing the necessary data and research,” the agency said in a statement. The statement does not address the broader issue of sleep disorders.

According to a report in TruckingInfo.com, the FMCSA proposed tougher standards for sleep apnea evaluation last year. The proposed guidance in 2012 mandated that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more must be evaluated for sleep apnea. The advisory committees supported the “guidance” approach but saw it as an interim step toward a comprehensive rule.

“Trucking interests have registered deep concern about the use of a guidance, and have been pushing for the rulemaking approach,” writes 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.

If the bill passes, it could mean a greater degree of certainty for CPAP providers looking to start or increase business with truckers and trucking entities. Medtrade, scheduled for Oct 7-10 in Orlando, Fla, will feature a host of opportunities for CPAP providers and those who wish to become involved in the burgeoning sleep industry.

Rowan Ellis, senior product manager at San Diego-based Resmed (Booth #1024), looks forward to the exposure at Medtrade where he can see customers face to face and “point them toward solutions that can help them through difficult times.”

And while the climate for sleep physicians and the sleep labs/DMEs they work with has been better, the market potential is still enormous. “We are just starting to lace up our boot straps when it comes to the untapped market,” muses Ellis. “The potential pool of patients out there is really just getting started. We have a big challenge with compliance, but the technology gets better every day.”

Sleep-related manufacturers on hand include:
Contour Products Inc (Booths #1160 and #1161)
CPAP Holders (Booth #567)
eZe Carry On (Booth #)
Health Call LLC (Booth #432)
Circadiance (Booth #979)
Drive Medical (Booth #716)
International Biophysics Corp (Booth #225)
Blackstone Medical Services (Booth #1817)

Medtrade takes place Oct 8-10 in Orlando, Fla. To register for Medtrade, or for more information, go to www.medtrade.com.