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Rail News: Safety

MTA expands sleep apnea screening program


New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is expanding its sleep apnea testing program to MTA Metro-North Railroad conductors, MTA Long Island Rail Road train crew members and other MTA employees, the agency announced Tuesday.

Through a pilot program that began in January 2015, MTA previously provided sleep apnea screenings for Metro-North locomotive engineers. The expansion will make that program permanent, MTA officials said in a press release.

The MTA also has issued a request for proposals from medical firms to conduct the sleep apnea testing.

"Although it is not required by regulation, the MTA recognizes the safety benefits of sleep apnea screening and treatment," said MTA Chief Safety Officer David Mayer. "Our pilot program worked well at Metro-North Railroad, and because of this success we are looking forward to extending this safety program to employees elsewhere within the MTA."

In October 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that MTA initiate a sleep apnea screening program following a deadly derailment of a Metro-North train. The NTSB found that the train's engineer, who was later found to have an undiagnosed case of severe obstructive sleep apnea, fell asleep while operating the train and failed to comply with a 30-mph speed restriction leading into a curve in the Spuyten Duyvil area of the Bronx.

As part of the initial program, MTA screened 438 locomotive engineers and locomotive engineer trainings for obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a medical disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while a person is sleeping, resulting in insufficient sleep. Left untreated, someone with the disorder may involuntarily fall asleep.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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