Obama signs bill outlining process for trucking rules

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President Obama signed a bill requiring that any new or updated rules for truckers with sleep disorders go through the normal rule-making process, the White House announced on Thursday evening.

The bill, H.R. 3095, passed the Senate by unanimous consent earlier this month, as one of the few pieces of legislation to come out of Congress while tensions are high over the government shutdown and debt limit.

The House also unanimously approved the measure, which was introduced by Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) and Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.) in September.

The legislation would prevent the Transportation Department from ordering any sleep disorder or sleep apnea tests and treatment for truckers, school bus drivers or other commercial motor vehicle drivers unless the regulations are developed through a normal rule-making process.

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That process includes a period of time for the public and industry groups to review and comment on the regulation. Transparency advocates and business groups worry that regulators sometimes issue rules in the form of guidance crafted without public comment, which can amount to a de facto regulation.

In statements while the bill was working its way through the House, Bucshon indicated that it will save the trucking industry as much as $1 billion.

Truckers have worried that guidance requiring drivers with a certain body mass index to be tested for sleep apnea could cost each driver thousands of dollars.

After the bill was introduced, the Transportation Department announced that it was committed to the normal rule-making process for issuing any sleep apnea rules. Some lawmakers said that move was prompted by the legislation.

The department estimates that as many as 28 percent percent of people holding commercial driver's licenses have sleep apnea, which causes interruptions of breathing while asleep and contributes to daytime drowsiness.