Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Booker, Pascrell Announce Introduction of Legislation Protecting Commuters, Operators from Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Sep 28, 2017
Press Release
Legislation requires U.S. DOT to implement rule mandating sleep apnea testing and treatment that was abruptly reversed by Trump Administration last month

WASHINGTON, DC – Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the tragic Hoboken rail crash, U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) announced the introduction of legislation to protect commuters, rail operators and commercial truck drivers from the dangers of sleep apnea. The legislation, which is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) and cosponsored in the House by Albio Sires (NJ-08), would require the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to implement the proposed rule mandating sleep apnea testing and treatment for rail operators and commercial truck drivers that was abruptly reversed by the Trump Administration last month.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) findings released last week confirming the engineer involved in the deadly 2016 Hoboken crash was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea after the incident but not tested during an examination two months prior.

"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 apnea testing and treatment," said Sen. Booker. "We simply cannot stand idly by and wait for the next tragic incident. It’s imperative that we take immediate steps to strengthen rail safety standards, and sleep apnea testing is a common sense safety measure that could prevent crashes and save lives. I’m proud to stand with Sen. Schumer and my colleagues in the House and Senate in introducing legislation to protect operators and commuters from another preventable tragedy by expanding sleep apnea testing and treatment requirements."

"Reducing fatigue-related accidents is at the top of the National Transportation Safety Board's most-wanted list of transportation safety improvements, and we now know that fatigue may have been a contributing factor in catastrophic rail accidents in Hoboken and Brooklyn," said Rep. Pascrell. "Yet before these findings were made public, President Trump made the shortsighted decision to reverse mandatory testing for sleep apnea. Safety must be our number one priority, for the sake of the men, women, and children who rely on mass transit every day. I will fight to advance our legislation reversing the administration's decision and requiring DOT to implement a common sense mandatory sleep apnea testing rule."

"Whether on the roads or the rails, the safety of the traveling public must be our highest transportation priority," said Sen. Menendez. "I’m disappointed that the Administration chose to put the traveling public at risk by ignoring the threat sleep apnea poses.  This legislation would address that failure and implement this commonsense public safety policy to protect riders, save lives, and make our rails and roadways safer."

"While the MTA has rightfully committed to sleep apnea testing, a federal law would force all rail lines—in New York, New Jersey and across the country—to conduct these tests in perpetuity and with clear federal guidelines. Across-the-board sleep apnea testing must be law of the land for train operators and commercial drivers to help ensure us that the tragedies that happened in Brooklyn and in Hoboken will be prevented in the future," said Sen. Schumer.

"Last year’s accident in Hoboken, which took one life and injured over one hundred commuters, involved a New Jersey Transit train operated by an engineer with undiagnosed sleep apnea," said Rep. Sires. "The public’s safety is one of government’s highest priorities and we have a duty to prevent this from happening again. That is why it is necessary to expand sleep apnea testing and treatment for the men and women who are entrusted with commuters’ lives. The Trump Administration’s disappointing decision to withdraw the rule to expand sleep apnea testing and treatment is shortsighted and irresponsible, and this legislation to continue the rulemaking process is a necessary step towards preventing this catastrophe from happening again."

A rule proposed by the Obama Administration in March 2016 would have expanded sleep apnea testing and treatment requirements for train operators and commercial truck drivers across the nation.  Last month, the Trump Administration unexpectedly announced that the rule was withdrawn. From as early as 2001, the NTSB has recommended that rail operators be tested and treated for sleep disorders like sleep apnea following a series of deadly derailments.

Rep. Pascrell joined Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and other colleagues on a letter sent to the Acting Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), expressing disappointment that the agencies failed to move forward with rulemaking that would allow testing and treatment for sleep apnea for mass transit workers.