This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) delivered a safety recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) urging them to implement a program to identify commercial drivers at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and require those drivers to provide medical certification that they have been evaluated and, if necessary, effectively treated before being granted unrestricted medical certification. In another recommendation, the NTSB also urged the FMCSA to “develop and disseminate guidance for commercial drivers, employers and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of individuals at high risk of OSA, emphasizing that drivers who have OSA that is effectively treated and routinely approved for continued medical certification.”
Individuals who suffer from OSA obstruct their own airways while sleeping, typically resulting in hypoxia at night, interruptions in breathing lasting several seconds at a time, loud snoring and non-restful sleep. Most are unaware of the condition. Individuals with OSA may have extreme daytime sleepiness and often fall asleep within minutes in a quiet or monotonous environment, and the condition is associated with significant cognitive and psychomotor deficits that are partially reversible with appropriate treatment. The condition can only be formally diagnosed through a sleep study where patients sleep under controlled conditions and are extensively monitored.
In its letter to the FMCSA the NTSB pointed out that if OSA goes untreated, it increases the likelihood of other dangerous medical conditions, including stroke, heart failure, coronary artery disease and diabetes. Additionally, the letter stated that obesity and high blood pressure are associated with the increased risk for OSA, with one study finding that more than 50 percent of patients with a body mass index of 40.0 have OSA. The NTSB also cited a 2002 review of the epidemiology of OSA, which estimated that roughly seven percent of adults have at least moderate OSA. An FMCSA-commissioned study on the prevalence of OSA in commercial drivers found that 17.6 percent of drivers studied had mild OSA, 5.8 percent had moderate OSA and 4.7 percent had severe OSA.
What was most bothersome about the NTSB’s letter to the FMCSA was when it mentioned that there is currently no program in place for public transit operators:
“The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has no formal medical standards for transit operators; each authority independently arranges medical programs for its operators, and many operators are required, either due to their functions or by the authority for which they work, to maintain a current commercial driver license. The NTSB is not aware of any existing programs that routinely screen transit operators for OSA.”
With so many lives at risk, it would be prudent for transit agencies to ensure their drivers are not suffering from OSA and are properly certified to safely operate vehicles if they do. Does your agency have anything in place to ensure drivers with OSA are properly identified and treated?
It drives me nuts when people litter. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people throw trash out of their car windows while they’re driving. I’m always tempted to honk my horn when I see drivers slyly ditching cigarette butts through their open window. Listen up, people. We see you!
Agencies that use Twitter to respond to users’ complaints or answer questions get more positive Twitter reaction and more civil discourse online, according to Lisa Schweitzer the author of a recent study analyzing tweets of public transit agencies. “It’s about the marketing potential of social media — a lot of public transit agencies are simply tweeting their problems to the world by blasting out late service announcements. That’s not a good use of Twitter,” she says. “Transit agencies can influence the tone of the discussion by interacting with patrons online,” Schweitzer explains. “It gives people something to respond to, and it reminds people that somebody is listening.”
Usually by early January, I will hopefully have taken down the last of our holiday decorations and eaten or given away the remaining sweets that have become a part of my regular diet during the month of December. Then, of course like most people, I’ll think about ways I want to improve myself for the coming year. Whether it be exercising more (walking from the parking lot to my office doesn’t count), eating less ice cream or managing my email better. The latter practice alone would help improve my efficiency at work immensely. I’m sure you probably feel the same way.
A new National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study solidifies what the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) Transit Savings Report has been telling us for years now: riding public transportation can save users money.
June 20 will mark the 8th annual National Dump the Pump Day sponsored by the American Public Transportation Association, in partnership with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.