Obama quietly signs bill requiring sleep disorder rule not guidance

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama Tuesday quietly signed into law legislation to ensure any federal standards governing screening, testing, or treatment of individuals operating commercial motor vehicles for sleep disorders would be through a rulemaking instead of guidance, which has previously been the case.

The bill, introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon, R-Ind., and Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., passed the House 405-0 and the Senate on unanimous consent.

While sleep disorders could define a wide range of medical problems, the bill clearly defines sleep apnea as a sleep disorder.

The legislation, highly applauded by trucking stakeholders was somewhat moot because the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had already announced it was following the wishes of the trucking industry and would deal with the sleep disorders issue through the rulemaking process rather than regulatory guidance.

The American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association quickly applauded Reps. Bucshon and Lipinski for introducing the bill.

The ATA said the legislation would “ensure that if the federal government sets standards for sleep apnea screening and testing of professional truck and bus drivers, those standards are established through an informed rulemaking process.”

OOIDA said that a rulemaking “would include requiring that a full cost-benefit and regulatory impact analysis be used should the FMCSA decide to set policy regarding screening, testing and treatment for sleep apnea as opposed to guidance, which is not subject to this critical analysis.”

Truckers and medical professionals have long complained that fuzziness in federal guidance on obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) testing and treatment has resulted in pendulum swings from one extreme to the other.

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