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Supreme Court declines to hear sleep apnea testing case

Many commercial vehicle operators in Georgia and all around the country require truck drivers who have a body mass index of 35 or higher to undergo sleep apnea testing. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a debilitating condition that can cause extreme fatigue and heart issues. Medical research has established that risk factors for the condition include obesity, poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles. Truck drivers may be more likely to develop sleep apnea because it can be difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on the road. Employers test for the condition to reduce the likelihood of fatigue-related accidents from occurring.

OSA tests are expensive, and some trade groups, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, are opposed to mandatory testing. These groups say that only a small number of fatal truck accidents involve fatigued or drowsy drivers. The matter was brought before the courts by a truck driver who claimed that his employer's insistence that he undergo sleep apnea testing violated protections guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. His lawsuit was ultimately unsuccessful, and the Supreme Court announced in April that it would not hear the case.

The Supreme Court's decision may lead to more widespread sleep apnea testing for obese truck drivers. Federal officials have been working for over a year to create guidelines that would mandate such testing for drivers in high-risk categories. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Medical Review Board and Safety Committee have already called for testing efforts to be stepped up.

Personal injury attorneys that are experienced with truck accident litigation would likely support any reasonable measure that would reduce the number of fatigued truck drivers on the road. When crashes may have been caused by drowsy drivers, lawyers study hours of service records and information stored on commercial vehicle data recorders to establish liability.

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