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Government attempts to detect drowsy drivers challenged

For drivers in North Carolina and across the country, truck driver fatigue caused by sleep apnea is both a major public health concern as well as a direct worry for its potential to lead to devastating trucking accidents. Because of the size, weight and mass of large trucks, collisions involving these vehicles can carry especially serious consequences. To prevent these types of collisions, the federal government has put in place a series of regulations that attempt to detect those at risk for drowsy driving.

Sleep apnea is of particular concern because, when untreated, people with this disorder may find it impossible to have restful sleep, leading to drowsiness throughout the day and even dozing off behind the wheel. However, government efforts to test truck drivers for sleep apnea are being challenged in court by an industry association. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, is suing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the FMCSA, arguing that guidances it issued in 2015 for truck driver medical examinations violate a 2013 federal law.

The 2013 law requires the FMCSA to seek public comment and notice before issuing new regulations for testing drivers for sleep apnea. However, the FMCSA says that the guidance only reflected pre-existing regulations for sleep apnea testing that were already in place in 2013. A federal appeals court panel agreed, but now the OOIDA is seeking a rehearing before all 12 judges on the court.

Whether truck driver fatigue in any particular case is caused by sleep apnea or other conditions, it can lead to devastating accidents that result in serious, lifelong injuries and even take lives. People who have been injured in 18-wheeler accidents due to a driver's negligent or dangerous driving may be able to work with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer may help accident victims seek compensation for the damages they suffered as a result of the crash.

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