Federal officials scrap sleep apnea screening for engineers, truckers

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U.S. officials have abandoned a plan to require sleep apnea screening for truck drivers and train engineers – a decision safety experts say puts millions of lives at risk.

Sen. Charles Schumer was in Mineola Tuesday where he called the decision by federal regulators a "giant step backwards." 

"If there had been testing for sleep apnea, there would be people alive walking the face of the Earth today who are not unfortunately because the engineer had sleep apnea," said the senator. 

In December 2013, a Metro-North train was speeding on a sharp curve in the Bronx before it derailed, killing four and injuring 63. Last year, an NJ Transit train crashed in the Hoboken Terminal, killing a woman on the platform and injuring 114 others. 

In both instances, the engineer had sleep apnea.

"I know the administration says there are too many regulations, but you have to look at which ones make sense and which ones need changing. This one didn't," said Schumer.  

A study conducted by the MTA found that 11 percent of engineers tested positive for sleep apnea. A study conducted by the American Trucking Associations found at least one-third of commercial drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. 

"We do surveys of our members and they have said drowsy driving for them is as big a problem as drunk driving," says Robert Sinclair, of AAA.  

The Long Island Rail Road told News 12 that regardless of federal requirements, it will continue to test all engineers for sleep apnea.

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