Sleep apnea does more than cause snoring. Aside from leading to heart failure, one of the ongoing complications is daytime drowsiness. This exhaustion has been linked to deadly crashes in the United States. That’s why, during the Obama administration, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) started plans for a regulation that requires truck drivers and train operators to be tested for sleep apnea. But now, the FRA and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are going to stop pursuing the regulation.
“It’s very hard to argue that people aren’t being put at risk,” Sarah Feinberg, a former FRA administrator, told the Associated Press. “We cannot have someone who is in that condition operating either a train going 70 mph or operating a multi-ton truck traveling down the interstate. It’s just not an appropriate level of risk to be exposing passengers and the traveling public to.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) were also dismayed by the decision. “Obstructive sleep apnea has been in the probable cause of 10 highway and rail accidents investigated by the NTSB in the past 17 years and obstructive sleep apnea is an issue being examined in several, ongoing, NTSB rail and highway investigations,” spokesman Christopher O’Neil told the AP.
A FRA spokesperson told the AP that he “believes that current railroad and FRA safety programs sufficiently address this risk.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a news conference that he would encourage other agencies to implement the rule. “We know from recent examples that if there had been testing for sleep apnea there would be people alive walking the face of the earth today who are not, unfortunately, because the engineer had sleep apnea,” Schumer said Tuesday.
Hopefully, Schumer is successful. There’s enough imminent danger because of Trump’s foreign policy; the last thing Americans need to worry about is the truck driver behind them falling asleep at the wheel.