Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Sen. Schumer demands FRA, FMCSA reverse sleep apnea rule withdrawal

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is asking the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to reverse the withdrawal of pending regulation that would require sleep apnea testing of workers in safety critical roles.

"We don't want train engineers with undiagnosed sleep apnea, who actually hold lives in their hands, to fall asleep at the switch and we don't want big-rig drivers to doze off at the wheel. That's why NTSB's recommendations to get this done should be the law of the land and why I have pushed so hard on this subject for years. This abrupt and uncalled for withdrawal by [U.S. Department of Transportation] commemorates a disaster waiting to happen and that's why I'm now calling on the both of these agencies to get these rules and this process back on track," said Sen. Schumer.

The FRA and FMCSA published a withdrawal notice in the Aug. 8 Federal Register ending development of the sleep apnea testing rule because both agencies "believe that current safety programs and FRA's rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address obstructive sleep apnea."

Sen. Schumer's office pointed to several transit accidents recently where sleep apnea played a role including a 2013 Metro-North derailment in the Bronx where four people where killed and that prompted the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to develop a program to screen employees for sleep apnea. The program was later expanded to the Long Island Rail Road, as well.

The senator's office also pointed to the derailment of a New Jersey Transit train at the Hoboken Terminal where sleep apnea also played a role. Sen. Schumer explains that early 20 percent of the major investigations completed by National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) between 2001 and 2012 identified fatigue issues as a probable cause.

Reducing fatigue-related accidents has been a mainstay on the NTSB's Most Wanted Lists.

"It doesn't take Albert Einstein to understand why it is so important to begin the process of requiring sleep apnea testing across-the-board and at the federal level," said Sen. Schumer.