Dems press Trump admin over sleep apnea rule change

Dems press Trump admin over sleep apnea rule change
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Senate Democrats are pressing the Trump administration over its recent decision to abandon an Obama-era plan requiring all truck, train and bus operators to be screened for sleep apnea.

In a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) on Monday, a group of lawmakers asked the agency to explain why it withdrew from the safety effort and requested copies of “all data and information” that were used to make the decision. 

The senators also urged the administration to reconsider scrapping the proposal or else come up with a new plan to step up safety. They pointed to several deadly crashes that were linked to an undiagnosed sleeping disorder, including a 2013 Metro-North train derailment in New York and a New Jersey Transit crash last year.

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“The 2016 proposed rule consisted of a modest, common-sense approach to combating fatigue on our roads and rails: require testing for obstructive sleep apnea if a problematic symptom is observed,” the lawmakers wrote. “We strongly believe that DOT should immediately reconsider the decision in order to help avoid future fatigue-related tragedies.”

The letter is signed by Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDems mull big changes after Brazile bombshell Senators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff Schumer: Dems want DACA fix in government spending bill MORE (N.J.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump is right: The visa lotto has got to go Schumer predicts bipartisan support for passing DACA fix this year No room for amnesty in our government spending bill MORE (N.Y.), Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Senators push mandatory sexual harassment training for members, staff CNN to air sexual harassment Town Hall featuring Gretchen Carlson, Anita Hill MORE (N.Y.).

Sleep apnea causes a person’s airways to close and stops their breathing during sleep, potentially leading to daytime drowsiness. That can be particularly dangerous for people operating trains, buses and trucks.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a safety advisory last fall urging railroads to screen and treat workers for obstructive sleep apnea amid growing concern that the condition can cause workers to fall asleep on the job.

The recommendation was supposed to serve as a placeholder while the agency wrote new rules requiring railroads and other transportation companies to screen their operators for the sleeping disorder.

But the FRA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced earlier this month that they were cancelling that proposal.

The administration said it gathered significant information and held public listening sessions on the idea but “did not receive sufficient data to support future rulemaking at this time.”

The industry has also pointed out that the White House’s action does nothing to prevent carriers and railroads from testing for sleep apnea, which many companies already voluntarily do.

“The agencies determined that current and upcoming safety programs appropriately address fatigue risks, including OSA [obstructive sleep apnea],” said a DOT spokesperson. “FRA will continue to monitor railroads’ voluntary OSA programs and compliance with fatigue risk management plans, once implemented as part of risk reduction and system safety program.”