Thursday 23 November 2017

Donald Trump urged to change policy on sleep apnoea tests for train drivers

Donald Trump has been cutting back on federal regulations (AP)
Donald Trump has been cutting back on federal regulations (AP)

Democratic politicians are promoting legislation that would require US federal transport officials to enforce tests for sleep apnoea on train drivers.

The move comes after President Donald Trump decided the decision should be left to individual railways and in the wake of the revelation that drivers in separate crashes were suffering from the condition.

Minority leader Chuck Schumer of New York and New Jersey US senator Cory Booker announced legislation following the reports on crashes in Hoboken, New Jersey and Brooklyn, New York.

Friday marks the anniversary of the Hoboken incident which killed a woman standing on a platform and injured about 110 passengers and crew.

The legislation would force the Department of Transportation to implement a proposed rule to require the test, overturning Mr Trump's decision last month.

"The recent findings released by NTSB on the Hoboken and LIRR crashes underscore just how shortsighted and reckless the Trump Administration's recent decision was to reverse the rule requiring sleep apnoea testing and treatment," Mr Booker said in a statement.

"We simply cannot stand idly by and wait for the next tragic incident."

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said last month that they are no longer pursuing the regulation that would require testing for the fatigue-inducing disorder.

The agencies argue it should be up to railways and haulage companies to decide whether to test employees.

One railway that does test, Metro-North in the New York City suburbs, found 11.6% of its drivers have sleep apnoea, a condition where breathing issues cause interrupted sleep, thus leading to tiredness during daylight hours.

The NTSB has cited sleep apnoea as the probable cause of 10 road and rail accidents in the past 17 years, including an undiagnosed case in the driver of a Metro-North Railroad commuter train that sped into a 30mph curve at 82mph and crashed in New York in 2013, killing four people.

The Hoboken and Brooklyn drivers had the sleep apnoea risk factor of being morbidly obese but were not diagnosed with the disorder until after the crashes, NTSB documents show.

NJ Transit had a screening programme at the time of the Hoboken crash.

The LIRR's started after the Brooklyn crash.

Both drivers are being treated with pressurised breathing masks.

The decision to kill the sleep apnoea regulation is the latest step in Mr Trump's campaign to drastically slash federal regulations.

The Trump administration has withdrawn or delayed hundreds of proposed regulations since he took office in January, moves the Republican president has said will help bolster economic growth.

Late last year, the FRA issued a safety advisory that was meant as a stop-gap measure urging railways to begin sleep apnoea testing while the rules made their way through the regulatory process.

Without a regulation mandating testing, which would have needed approval from Congress, regulators could not cite haulage companies or railways if a lorry or train crashed because the operator fell asleep at the helm.

AP

Press Association

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