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Trump Decision Could Increase Truck Accidents

24057965985_d7138e3ddf_z.jpgIt seems like common sense that we don't want truck drivers and train operators falling asleep on the job. These workers operate massive machines, and often work long, irregular hours. One wrong move can cause catastrophic train and truck accidents.

But last week, President Trump and the Department of Transportation withdrew a proposal to test truckers and train operators for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that is becoming increasingly common and has led to a recent uptick in trucking accidents. Perhaps somewhere there is an explanation for why this proposal was withdrawn that makes sense but I don't know what it could be. 

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and What Are Its Effects?

OSA is caused by partially or totally obstructed upper airways during sleep. This can result in symptoms such as fatigue and drowsiness during the day, symptoms that could go unnoticed or be easily misdiagnosed. But in serious cases, OSA can cause people to spontaneously fall asleep much in the same way as those with narcolepsy. Obesity is a large contributor to OSA, so as our nation's obesity epidemic grows, cases of sleep apnea are becoming more and more common. In fact, the condition now affects more than 18 million Americans.

One of the most dangerous parts of sleep apnea is that you could have it and not know. Which is why, for truck drivers and train operators, testing for this condition would be the only way to ensure that these workers aren't at risk of falling asleep on the job.

Not Testing for OSA Can Have Serious Consequences


The decision to take this proposal off the table is irresponsible and will likely lead to more trucking and train accidents, with serious consequences. Back in November, a train operator with sleep apnea killed one and injured 100 people by running his train into a Hoboken, NJ train station. Of course, the train operator was only diagnosed after the crash. But had he been tested beforehand, this accident would likely have been avoided.

A recent study of truck drivers found that those with sleep apnea are five times more likely to crash. And a survey conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), found that "OSA affects more than 40 percent of commercial truck drivers in the United States today. One of every three 18-wheelers you see on our highways has a driver that suffers OSA. This not only puts each of these drivers at risk, but also increases the risk of those that share the highways with them."

Implementing testing of truckers and train operators is a sure-fire way to prevent these types of accidents. And yet, in the name of deregulation, the administration has chosen to let this serious problem continue. As a result, there will likely be more accidents, more injuries, and more deaths, all because of a disorder that can be easily tested for, diagnosed, and in many cases, treated.

It's now the exclusive responsibility of trucking and train companies to test their employees. When they don't, they're putting lives at risk. The attorneys at Law Offices of Scott Righthand are experts in this field. We hold companies accountable who don't properly test their employees and make our roads and trains more hazardous than they already are.

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