NTSB focuses on sleep apnea

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The National Transportation Safety Board wants a program to identify commercial drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and to require that drivers provide evidence of evaluation and, if necessary, effective treatment. In recommendations to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, NTSB also said that FMCSA should develop and disseminate guidance for commercial drivers, employers and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of OSA, and that such guidance should emphasize that drivers effectively treated for OSA are routinely approved for continued medical certification.

NTSB’s recommendations arose from the board’s investigation of a number of accidents in all modes of transportation where the vehicle operators had sleep disorders. For example, in July 2006, a truck driver who collided with a Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle had undergone surgery for OSA but never had indicated the diagnosis or surgery on medical certification exams. NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the driver’s incapacitation, owing to the failure of the medical certification process to detect and remove a medically unfit driver from service.

For a copy of NTSB’s recommendations (H-09-15 and H-09-16), see the electronic version of this article at www.ccjmagazine.com.