A Burdensome Regulation Screening Truck Drivers for a Sleep Disorder

The Trump administration has withdrawn a proposed requirement to screen drivers for a condition that causes them to spontaneously fall asleep.

How asleep should truck drivers be on the job?

Many people say, “not asleep at all. Wait, why is that even a question?”

Over the past several years, this has become a question of health policy that has morphed into a question about the role of government. A string of high-profile incidents involving somnolent truck drivers and railroad engineers have called attention to an emerging sleep disorder. For one, a conductor crashed a train into a crowded station in Hoboken, New Jersey, injuring more than 100 people. He was found to have the condition, called obstructive sleep apnea, which affects alertness and can cause people to spontaneously fall asleep even during the most stimulating tasks.

In March of last year, the Obama administration proposed that this sort of incident should be prevented when possible. One proactive approach was to begin requiring screening train engineers and truck drivers for sleep apnea.

This turned out to be a politically divisive idea. On Friday, the Trump administration announced that it had withdrawn that proposed requirement, as part of a comprehensive effort to eliminate regulations that could ostensibly limit economic growth.

This was met with consternation from consumer- and health-advocacy organizations. A spokesperson for the National Transportation Safety Board, for one, which has advocated for screening truckers for the sleep disorder for years, told Bloomberg the agency is “disappointed” that the Department of Transportation withdrew the “much-needed” rule.

The sleep-inducing condition, which affects at least one in 10 people to some degree, is increasingly common. In serious cases, obstructive sleep apnea can render a person with symptoms that sound like classic narcolepsy, falling asleep with little to no warning. In this way it is similar to narcolepsy, only the primary problem is respiratory. People with the condition do not breathe well while sleeping at night, which degrades the quality of the sleep, and leaves people impaired and exhausted during the day.

courtesy of: theatlantic.com