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Update: New guidelines enacted for commercial drivers license a - KOAM TV 7

Update: New guidelines enacted for commercial drivers license applicants

Updated:
Update:  A Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Administration representative contacted us and says testing for sleep apnea, or any other condition, is totally up to the health professional.  Today, we again talked with the Freeman doctor we interviewed for this story.  He says in his opinion, the DOT's and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's guidelines still require sleep apnea testing for patients, based on BMI and other health issues.  The doctor has been certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration.

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There's a new rule being applied to commercial drivers license applicants.  Healthcare providers are calling it a "game changer" to the industry.  This new rule, put into place earlier last month, indirectly targets obesity in the truck driving industry.

"We're mainly talking about obstructive sleep apnea, which is where the airway, when you sleep, becomes obstructed.  The tongue falls back," says Dr. Dennis Estep with Freeman Occumed.

"I've heard friends say they wake up in the middle of the night and stuff like that," says Con-Way truck driver Victor Martinez.

Martinez doesn't know if he ever had sleep apnea, because more importantly, now he doesn't.  Two and a half years ago, Martinez weighed 300 pounds.

"I used to park as close as possible (to the truck stop), so I wouldn't have to walk as far," says Martinez.

Doctors say obesity often times correlates with sleep apnea.

"You can be drowsy through the day because you're not resting well.  You're not as sharp.  Sleep apnea has come to the forefront.  That is one of the biggest aspects right now that DOT is really wanting us to screen for," says Dr. Estep.

There are new federal regulations for health professionals who give physicals to commercial drivers license applicants.  They must be certified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  And now, if an applicant doesn't fit within a certain body mass index, they're tested for sleep apnea.  Once diagnosed for sleep apnea, applicants must go through treatment.

But not all trucking companies will pay for this treatment.

"On an individual, case by case basis, we work to make sure they get the sleep apnea treatment they need," says Katlin Owens with Con-Way.

Martinez is 60 pounds lighter than before.

"I feel a lot better.  I'm not winded walking from my truck to the truck stops anymore," says Martinez.

Martinez, also a truck driver instructor, now teaches applicants healthy eating habits, proactively defending against sleep apnea.

Workers at Freeman Health System say they are the only ones in the area offering a new program for truck drivers who have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Click here for more information, and watch the associated video.

The new regulations for certified health professionals also call for long-time smokers to have their blood oxygen levels checked.
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