Posted On August 28, 2017 In Truck Accidents
The US Department of Transportation has halted the implementation of its proposed obstructive sleep apnea screening rule for commercial drivers. If this rule had been implemented by the FMCSA, an agency within the Department of Transportation, then it may have helped identify and treat commercial drivers with the condition.
Commercial truck drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are a public safety risk because of symptoms caused by the condition. When left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions can cause people with the condition to jolt awake multiple times per night. As a result, people with untreated sleep apnea may experience excessive daytime drowsiness, trouble concentrating and slowed reaction times. For commercial truck drivers, this means they are more prone to falling asleep behind the wheel or fail to respond to potential hazards. Other aspects of their job performance that do not involve driving may also be affected by these symptoms.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that 20 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. If the sleep apnea rule had been put into place, it may have identified these drivers by flagging certain at-risk health conditions. Drivers with these health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity, would have been required to attend an in-person sleep apnea assessment. After being identified, drivers with obstructive sleep apnea could have received continuous positive airway pressure devices to treat the condition.
Instead of requiring at-risk commercial truck drivers to undergo screening, trucking companies and Transportation Department medical examiners will continue to decide whether they want to screen commercial drivers. Trucking companies may decide that screening and treatment options are not worth the cost. Transportation Department medical examiners may also make mistakes and miss opportunities to test drivers with this condition. Unfortunately, this means that drivers could suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and not realize it until after they have caused an accident.
In some cases, trucking companies may knowingly allow drivers with dangerous health conditions to drive heavy trucks or vehicles. Trucking companies may allow these employees to drive regardless of the risks to public safety. When drivers with these health conditions cause truck accidents, their employers may be held liable for any damages caused to survivors or their families. Drivers have driver qualification files (also called DQ files) that contain the results of the required Transportation Department medical examination required for obtaining a commercial driver’s license. The DQ file and other paperwork could be useful evidence to establish liability during a truck accident lawsuit.
The Texas truck accident attorneys at Mike Love & Associates, LLC can help determine whether you have legal options to pursue damages against a trucking company or other parties.