Supreme Court declines to hear truck driver sleep apnea case

Truck drivers in Kentucky and around the country with body mass indexes of 35 or higher may be more likely to have to undergo sleep apnea testing after the U.S. Supreme Court announced on April 3 that it would not hear a case challenging the legality of such testing. The litigation, which was filed by a truck driver, claimed that the Americans with Disabilities Act protected American workers from mandatory sleep apnea testing.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition that interferes with sleep patterns and can lead to extreme fatigue. Obesity increases the chances of developing the condition considerably, and many truck operators around the country ask drivers with high body mass indexes to take tests costing about $1,200 each. The goal of theses tests is to keep drivers who may be more likely to be involved in truck accidents caused by truck driver fatigue off the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration supports sleep apnea testing for obese truck drivers, and the agency’s Safety Advisory Committee and Medical Review Board have called for rules that would make the tests mandatory. However, trade groups including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association are against compulsory sleep apnea testing and say that drowsy driving accidents are not a serious problem.

Personal injury attorneys who have litigated truck accident cases involving fatigued drivers will likely support mandatory sleep apnea testing for truck drivers in high-risk groups. They may also file lawsuits against trucking companies when they fail to take reasonable steps to protect road users from drivers with medical conditions that could impair their ability to do their jobs safely. When regulations are not clear, attorneys representing truck accident victims may study the recommendations of groups like the FMCSA’s Safety Advisory Board to establish whether or not the trucking company involved met its duty of care.


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