Law applies brakes to sleep apnea guidelines

Friday, November 22, 2013

With the long-awaited guidelines for testing and treating commercial drivers pushed back indefinitely, CPAP providers say it’s the drivers who will suffer most.

“Once they adhere to the therapy, they say they won’t go without it,” said Jodie Cocke, client relations manager for “It’s made such a difference for them that they are trying to advocate for other drivers to do this.”

Congress this fall fast-tracked a bill that would require the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to go through a lengthy formal rulemaking process for the guidelines. The bill was signed into law in October. 

The FMCSA has been working on the guidelines since at least 2008 and, after several delays, was widely expected to release them this year.

“This is a political remedy,” said Dana Voien, president of SleepSafe Drivers. “(Several companies and a couple of industry groups) did not want to have to pay for those health benefits, so they rushed something through.”

Supporters of the law estimate it could cost more than $1 billion annually to treat sleep apnea among drivers, but Voien says the cost of not treating them could be even higher.

“This isn’t just a cost thing—it’s an investment,” he said. “To my knowledge, every fleet that has done this so far has come out saying their drivers are healthier, they’ve reduced accidents, and they’ve reduced healthcare costs—on average, 50%.”

To be sure, providers that work with transportation companies say the companies that have jumped on the bandwagon won’t go backward. It’s the ones that have been sitting on the fence that are likely to remain there.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation, and truck drivers and companies don’t know what to do because of the lack of guidance,” said Jennifer Jordan, business development for Aeroflow. “There may be a driver who needs a sleep study, but the company is waiting on black-and-white information.”