DAYTON, OH — (EXCLUSIVE) — A man says that the federal government is forcing him to sleep with an uncomfortable and invasive device strapped to his face every night, or else he will lose his ability to support his family.
Wayne Foutz, 47, says that his life has changed since he last went through the federal government’s licensing requirements for him to work as a commercial truck driver. He says that his last medical checkup — federally mandated every 2 years to remained licensed — left him with a hasty diagnosis of sleep apnea, and a requirement of wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.
He’s now struggling to sleep, thanks to his obligation to wear a breathing apparatus every night, which automatically transmits data about his biological processes to a remote monitoring service.
Foutz, a 17-year veteran truck driver, says he is healthy and had no sleeping problems before the diagnosis.
“I don’t even snore. I am the same weight I was the day they hired me 15 years ago. I’ve never had an accident,” Foutz told policestateusa.com. “I slept just fine until a week ago when they started strapping shit to my face. I haven’t had more than two consecutive hours of sleep since.”
Foutz explained that while receiving a physical examination from a doctor, his neck and BMI were measured and he was ordered to participate in a sleep study. He was sent to Advanced Home Medical, and given a portable test kit to wear for one night.
“They sent me home with what looked like a Sony Walkman with wires I’m supposed to jam up my nose instead of my ears,” Foutz explained. After sleeping with the device, he told us, “I returned the machine to the medical equipment company, thinking I’d see a doctor. No doctor. Not there anyway. I was diagnosed by a doctor 500 miles away by email.”
The government requirement is that he wears the device for at least 4 hours per night. During those 4 hours, Foutz says, he has trouble falling asleep, and is subsequently woken up at least once per hour, due to discomfort with the machine and the body position he is forced to assume while wearing it.
“I sleep normally without the mask,” Foutz told policestateusa.com. “I’m getting my sleep, it just takes me longer now.”
Foutz says his life has been disrupted due to the fact that he has to go to bed earlier than he used to in order to make up for the lost hours spent “struggling” with the CPAP machine. He’s also been taking extra naps in order to catch up from the lost hours of sleep. “Every day this week, around 11 a.m.,” Foutz says he stopped his truck to get some more rest.
“I will not drive tired,” Foutz insisted, adding that “the naps are cutting into my productivity.”
“Yes, I’m fat,” said Foutz, “but that didn’t seem to bother anyone when I started my career 17 years ago, and didn’t stop me from earning numerous safety awards from my employer. Now all of the sudden I am a menace.”
The ResMed ResTraxx™ machine that was sent home with Foutz electronically transmits his data back to a remote location. “The module attaches to the S9 device and transmits compliance data every day to ResTraxx Online,” the product’s Online Fact Sheet states.
Aside from being uncomfortable to wear, Foutz finds the machine invasive.
“It’s bugged,” said Foutz. “It monitors my every breath, and if I don’t wear it, I’m medically disqualified and lose my livelihood.”
He continued, “It has a GPS modem attatched to it. It tracks you during the day and uploads data from it to the monitoring service. If you don’t use it, they call your dispatcher and you are pulled off the road for a minimum of seven days. If that call comes in when you’re 500 miles from home, tough shit for you. I saw that happen to a guy I work with.”
He also lamented that he has to pay annual fees for a monitoring service he doesn’t want or need.
A conflict of interest
Foutz suspects there is a bit of an incentive to turn out more diagnoses so that the industry can sell more of their expensive medical equipment. Now with a sleep apnea diagnosis, and under the threat of losing his commercial driver’s license (CDL), he was compelled to pay $1,500 out of pocket for the CPAP machine. The total cost of the sleep study and the machine was thousands more, but covered by his insurance plan.
It is widely felt in the trucking industry that this recent push for sleep studies and medical equipment was because of ulterior motives from federal regulators.
Around late 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) pushed for the industry to toughen up on its standards regarding sleep apnea. This crackdown came at the behest of the Medical Review Board for the FMCSA, according to Today’s Trucking.
The key member pushing for the tightened sleep apnea standards was the chairman of the FMCSA’s Medical Review Board, Benjamin Hoffman, M.D. According to the MRB website, “Dr. Hoffman leads a global team of occupational health professionals responsible for programs, services and the operation of over 80 on- site clinics that promote employee health, safety and productivity for over 100,000 employees. ”
Aside from setting the health standards for the trucking industry, Hoffman also happens to be the Global Chief Medical Officer for GE Energy. And incidentally, General Electric makes medical equipment, including CPAP machines.
Hoffman is both a corporate executive as well as a federal regulator. And as such, he has the ability to shape General Electric’s bottom line, due to his influence over the FMCSA. Someone in his position can federally force people to do business with some very large corporations; such as the one with which he sits as a global executive.
The leveraging of the FMCSA by the sleep study industry has been going on since at least 2008. Land Line Magazine contributor Charlie Morasch has been documenting this problem for at least that long.
In 2011, Morasch interviewed the vice president of the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), Todd Spencer. They discussed the crony corporate ties that entangle the trucking industry via the FMCSA. Morasch wrote:
Board members shouldn’t be able to recommend changes that would directly benefit members’ employers.“Realistically, the conflict of interest in the makeup of that group is just absolutely glaring,” Spencer said. “They by no means have an objective viewpoint. The Medical Review Board has an economic interest tied to this particular issue.”The Medical Review Board includes some individuals with lengthy academic resumes. It’s too bad the board still includes no one with knowledge of or background in trucking.
The Wall Street Journal pointed out in 2012 that ResMed — and the rest of the CPAP industry — was “poised to benefit after a joint committee of key advisory boards to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, this month recommended mandatory sleep testing for interstate truck drivers with a BMI in excess of 35.”
Hoffman, the driving influence behind the increased regulation, said, “We need a prescriptive number to make it easy for the examiner,” saying that it is almost impossible to controvert the evidence that a BMI of 35 is a reliable indicator of sleep apnea, according to Today’s Trucking.
When Foutz discussed this with policestateusa.com, he remarked, “4% of the population has sleep apnea. But according to Mr. Hoffman, that number jumps to 30-40% when you acquire a commercial driver’s license.”
Foutz says the drivers he’s talked to have been heavily steered towards the sleep studies, some being as little as 10 pounds overweight. Foutz relates: “30 BMI or over, you have apnea. The testing process is a scam from the word go, conducted at medical equipment companies. You walk in, you’re walking out with a CPAP machine.”
The crony corporatist manipulation of the trucking industry is only possible with the existence of the legal infrastructure imposed by the federal government that excludes drivers who do not abide by their standards. Government licensing — such as the CDL requirement — is a legal mechanism used to manipulate markets, extort money, and exclude competition. In this case, the medical equipment industry can be artificially boosted by forcing an estimated 3 million truck drivers to comply with the standards set up by a well-connected corporate opportunist.
By their very nature, federal regulations are easy to abuse and manipulate by powerful crony corporations. These monopolistic policies end up being designed for the benefit of those with the biggest financial incentives, and not for the promotion of safety. While some entities are able to regulate themselves a profit, those who are forced into compliance find the requirements onerous and invasive. Such is the result of giving the depraved federal government the ability to make it illegal to drive a truck without their permission.