The U.S. Department of Transportation has taken the “first step” to address obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Thursday will jointly publish an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) that calls for public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating commercial drivers and rail workers for OSA. 

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that DOT take action to address OSA screening and treatment for transportation workers, placing “require medical fitness for duty” on its Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements for 2016.

The pre-publication copy of the DOT proposal cites several sleep apnea-related incidents investigated by NTSB, including a July 2000 work zone accident in which a tractor-trailer driver collided with a Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle trailing construction vehicles, killing the state trooper inside. The tractor-trailer driver was 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed 358 pounds, and had been diagnosed with and undergone surgery for OSA, but had not indicated either the diagnosis or the surgery on examinations for medical certification, according to the investigation report.

The notice also points to recent rail accidents attributed to sleep apnea, including the December 2013 commuter train derailment that killed 4 and injured more than 60 in New York City.

FMCSA and FRA will host three public listening sessions to gather input on OSA in Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles as both agencies consider whether to propose requirements specifically on OSA.

“The collection and analysis of sound data on the impact of OSA must be our immediate first step,” said FMCSA Acting Administrator Scott Darling. “We call upon the public to help us better understand the prevalence of OSA among commercial truck and bus drivers, as well as the safety and economic impacts on the truck and bus industries.”

Trucking industry groups are taking a wait-and-see position on the proposal.

“We’re pleased that DOT is taking the time to solicit input and data from the industry and the public on this important safety issue because we believe regulations—including one that might possibly address obstructive sleep apnea—should be based upon sound data and analysis,” American Trucking Assns. spokesman Sean McNally said. “In particular, DOT needs to understand the scope of the problem, the number of crashes that directly result from sleep apnea, and determine if there is a need for a solution that can improve safety, but in a way that is both effective and cost-beneficial to drivers and fleets.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Assn. was still reviewing the notice when contacted by Fleet Owner.

“We have always encouraged our members to seek medical advice from their personal physicians regarding all health issues,” OOIDA spokesman Norita Taylor said.