Critics charge the Trump Administration is asleep at the switch when it comes to railroad and highway safety.
A pair of federal agencies, as part of the president’s campaign to slash regulations, scuttled a plan to require sleep apnea testing for truck drivers and train engineers.
“It’s very hard to argue that people aren’t being put at risk,” said Sarah Feinberg, former administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
“We cannot have someone who is in that condition operating either a train going 70 mph or operating a multi-ton truck traveling down the interstate.”
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, sleep apnea emerged as the cause in 10 accidents investigated by the agency over the last 17 years — a figure that could increase.
“Sleep apnea is an issue being examined in several ongoing NTSB rail and highway investigations,” said NTSB spokesman Christopher O’Neil, describing the mandatory testing as “much-needed rulemaking.”
A lawyer for the engineer in last year’s fatal Hoboken Terminal crash of an NJ Transit train claimed his client suffered from undiagnosed sleep apnea.
And the engineer of a Metro-North train that derailed in December 2013, killing four riders on a stretch of Bronx track, was afflicted with the same ailment at the time of the wreck.
Sufferers of the typically chronic disorder endure pauses in breathing while asleep, resulting in a poor night’s sleep and excessive daytime exhaustion.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute notes on its website that the ailment “often goes undiagnosed.” Testing done by Metro-North determined 11.6% of its engineers suffered from sleep apnea.
New York Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer said he will lean on the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to change their plans about the testing.
“There are some regulations that go too far, but this is not one of them,” said Schumer. “Repealing it will risk lives.”
The FRA last year issued an advisory last year urging railroads to begin sleep apnea testing in anticipation of a coming federal regulation.
But its position changed dramatically under the new administration.