NJ lawmakers call for mandatory sleep apnea testing for rail engineers

Posted: Updated:
HOBOKEN -

Some of New Jersey’s representatives in Congress are calling on President Donald Trump to make traveling by train safer.

The lawmakers sent a letter to the White House calling on the president to make testing for sleep apnea mandatory for all commuter train engineers. The letter comes after the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that blamed a New Jersey Transit engineer’s sleep apnea for a deadly crash in Hoboken.

“This tragedy was 100 percent preventable,” said Sen. Robert Menendez. “[The engineer’s] illness caused his fatigue and his fatigue caused this crash.

The deadly crash happened September 2016. Transit officials say that engineer Thomas Gallager was not tested for sleep apnea. The NJ Transit train crashed into Hoboken Terminal. A woman was killed and over 100 other people injured. The NTSB found that NJ Transit failed to test or treat employees for sleep apnea.

The letter to the president says in part, "From the campaign trail to your recent State of the Union address, you have continuously promised to make a substantial investment in our critical transportation infrastructure."

President Trump is expected to unveil a $1 trillion plan to improve infrastructure nationwide. Democrats have called for $50 billion to modernize the rail system. They are also focusing on sleep apnea testing after the president rolled-back 2008 rule that mandated testing.

"We haven't even put forth the standards and guidelines put forth in a decade-old report about what we should be doing to keep us safe,” said Sen. Cory Booker.

New Jersey official say that they would also like to see some of that money help fund and get into place the Positive Train Control safety feature, which would prevent crashes like this from happening again.

PTC slows trains that are out of control. Officials brought up data that shows that since 2000 there were seven train crashes resulting in 11 deaths related to sleep apnea. Some of those included crashes in Washington, the Bronx and Philadelphia. 

"What in God’s name are we waiting for?” asked Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Any more funding would help NJ Transit. The agency has a December deadline to implement PTC.

The Trump administration has not released any details as to what projects might be included in the infrastructure announcement next week. They have said they want to bring about $1 trillion in spending, but there would only be $200 billion in federal dollars available.

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