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Supreme Court declines to hear truck driver sleep apnea case

Truck drivers in Florida and around the country may be more likely to be tested for sleep apnea after an April Supreme Court decision. The nation's highest court ruled that it would not hear arguments in a case brought by a truck driver who claims that such testing violates the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Obstructive sleep apnea is a debilitating condition that can cause extreme fatigue and exhaustion, and experts at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration have urged for mandatory sleep apnea testing of truck drivers with body mass indexes of 35 or higher.

The risks of developing sleep apnea increase when individuals are overweight, smoke or lead sedentary lifestyles, and the FMCSA is pushing for more rigorous testing because truck drivers who spend most of their working lives sitting are more likely than most workers to fall into one or more of these high-risk categories. The FMCSA's Motor Carrier Safety Committee and Medical Review Board have both called for obese truck drivers to be tested for the condition, but officials have yet to agree on how to implement such a regulation.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association views the proposed rule as intrusive and points to federal crash data that links fatigue with only a small percentage of fatal truck accidents. The trade group also claims that employers who monitor the use of airway pressure devices, which are used to treat obstructive sleep apnea, by their drivers are violating federal privacy laws.

A commercial vehicle weighing as much as 80,000 pounds with a drowsy, intoxicated or distracted driver behind the wheel can cause catastrophic damage and injuries. When personal injury attorneys file lawsuits on behalf of truck accident victims and police reports lack the details necessary to establish liability, they may seek to gather additional evidence by having the commercial vehicles involved inspected or studying the information captured on their data recorders.

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