- Part 1 – Can A DOT Medical Examiner Refuse You A Medical Card Unless You Have A Sleep Study Done?
- Part 2 [You Are HERE] – DOT Physical And Sleep Apnea Testing: Are Medical Examiners Caught Between A Rock And A Hard Place?
- Part 3 – Commercial Driver Awareness About The Sleep Apnea Issue
- Part 4 – OSA: How To Know If You Have It
- Part 5 – Commercial Drivers Can Manage Sleep Apnea And Maintain Their CDL
More and more drivers are being held-up (not able to renew), or held on a very short leash (30-60 day medical card) by the sleep apnea testing issue.
Some DOT Certified Doctors, aka Certified Medical Examiners, are stating so-called FMCSA sleep apnea guidance or rules that the driver “has to have a sleep study test done” before getting a new medical card. Drivers who have never been diagnosed with any type of pulmonary or sleep related conditions are being targeted because their BMI or their neck size is “too big”.
As the situation currently stands…
There are NO FMCSA guidelines or rules on sleep apnea.
Previous FMCSA Proposed Recommendations on Obstructive Sleep Apnea were withdrawn by FMCSA in April 2012, and on October 15, 2013 the “sleep apnea bill” was signed into law by the President. The law forbids the FMCSA from using guidance alone to address sleep apnea screening for drivers. It requires that if the agency take action regarding sleep apnea screening, that it do so via the formal rule-making process, and not guidance.
The sponsors of the sleep apnea bill inferred that guidance alone would make the transportation industry extremely vulnerable to litigation.
– THE ROCK –
There is no FMCSA sleep apnea guidance or rule.
So let’s explore the doctor’s perspective.
– THE HARD PLACE –
The Medical Examiner is held responsible for ensuring that a driver is medically fit to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
The primary responsibility of the Medical Examiner is to determine the driver’s medical fitness for duty to safely operate a commercial motor vehicle.
- FMCSA Regulations: The examiner must comply withFMCSA regulations.
- FMCSA Guidance: FMCSA provides medical guidance or advisory criteria to assist in the evaluation of medical fitness to operate a commercial motor vehicle. These guidelines are based on expert review and considered best practice.
The examiner may or may not choose to use these recommended guidelines. When the certification decision does not conform to the recommendations, the reason(s) for not following the medical guidelines should be included in the documentation / long form.
- Refer for further Testing / Evaluation: The examiner does not have the job of diagnosing or treating any condition that a driver may present with. The examiner is responsible to refer the driver for further testing / evaluation if the examiner suspects an undiagnosed or worsening medical problem.
This puts the Medical Examiner between a rock and a hard place and there is lots of room for interpretation here.
And where there’s interpretation, there’s opportunity for litigation.
The last thing a doctor needs is litigation – for the price of a DOT physical exam!
Some doctors are being extra cautious, and…
The “you-know-what” continues to roll downhill, and…
Commercial drivers are at the bottom of the hill!
What can commercial drivers do to avert this situation?
Be aware of the difference circumstances and perspectives around the sleep apnea issue that could affect both your livelihood and your life.
Put In A Nutshell
Since there is no FMCSA regulation regarding sleep apnea evaluation and the basic parameters are subject to interpretation, then be aware of the Medical Examiner’s position.
- The medical examiner’s job is not to diagnose. It is to assess the driver’s medical fitness to determine if any safety risk issues exist.
- If there is a reasonable chance of risk then the examiner will request that a specialist in that field provide a proper diagnosis and treatment if necessary.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with sleep apnea, then another set of regulations apply.
By being proactive, you get to manage this before it becomes an issue.
You can find Dr. Seals at Chiro Stop in Salt Lake City, UT.