In August, the U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew a 2016 proposal to increase screenings for sleep apnea in truck drivers. News of this withdrawal has caused some confusion for local truckers, said Pauline Abbott, D.O., a licensed medical examiner who provides Department of Transportation physicals at Lake Regional Occupational Medicine in Lebanon and Osage Beach.
"Truck drivers hear this proposal has been withdrawn and wonder what that means for their DOT physicals," Dr. Abbott said. "Although the proposed rule for more screenings will not go into effect, rules already in place remain in place. And that means that truck drivers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea still must prove compliance with recommended treatment to pass their DOT exams."
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses often do not wake people up fully, so many people with sleep apnea are unaware of the problem. Yet they often struggle with excessive sleepiness during the day.
The most common treatment is to prescribe use of a CPAP machine. CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. A CPAP machine helps prevent pauses in breathing by delivering a continuous air flow through the mouth and nose.
To be in compliance with DOT rules, truck drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea must use a CPAP machine at least four hours, at least 70 percent of evenings.
"Truck drivers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea need to use CPAP machines that can monitor use and must bring a printout of the last 30 days to their DOT examinations," Dr. Abbott said. "I will review and document their CPAP use on their DOT form."
Another rule that continues to be in effect requires medical examiners to assess respiratory function and use their best judgment in deciding whether drivers should have additional testing to rule out sleep disorders.
In addition to providing DOT physicals, Lake Regional Occupational medicine provides DOT and non-DOT services for workers required to participate in a random drug-testing pool; hearing and pulmonary function tests; back and strength assessments; and prompt evaluation and treatment for many workers' compensation injuries. Free workplace safety evaluations also are available. Dr. Abbott is a licensed medical examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration National Registry, and she is certified to perform FAA pilot medical exams.
Both the Lebanon and Osage Beach locations of Lake Regional Occupational Medicine are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The number for Lebanon is 417.991.3103. The number for Osage Beach is 573.348.8045.
Learn more and download an Occupational Medicine Information Packet at www.lakeregional.com/OccMed.