Trucking companies to increase testing for deadly sleep apnea
Truck drivers face high risk for sleep apnea
Trucking companies may more frequently screen their drivers for sleep apnea in an effort to combat drowsy driving accidents.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes breathing to start and stop during sleep, leading to less restful sleep and increased drowsiness. For drivers, especially truckers, bus drivers, or train engineers, drowsiness can become deadly.
Why test truck drivers for sleep apnea?
Truck drivers’ concern with sleep apnea is twofold. Their profession makes them both more likely to develop sleep apnea, and more at risk of death from its effects.
Driving a truck involves sitting for long periods of time, eating at truck stops along the road, and irregular sleeping schedules. Factors that can contribute to sleep apnea include obesity, smoking, bad diet, and poor sleep habits. It’s easy to see how truck drivers’ lifestyles leave them susceptible to this disorder. Unfortunately, many people with the disorder may not even know that they have it.
The negative effects of sleep apnea include cardiovascular problems, and, of course, fatigue and drowsiness. For truck drivers, this can be a deadly side-effect.
Sleep disorder to blame for truck crash deaths
Researchers estimate that drowsy driving causes up to 20% of truck accidents. Truck drivers who have OSA and do not get treatment are up to five times more likely to get into a crash. This disorder is a serious occupational hazard (truck driving remains one of the most dangerous jobs in America) and a serious public safety issue. As truck accident lawyers, we know that the injuries sustained in a tractor trailer or semi truck accident can be devastating, if not deadly. Drowsy driving poses a concern for all drivers on the road; missing just a few hours of sleep can cause the same level of impairment as drunkenness. But, when it comes to drivers who sit behind the wheel of a big rig or bus or operate a commuter train, employers want to do what they can to keep their employees and the traveling public safe.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advisory committees have proposed a rule that would require testing for sleep apnea for drivers with a BMI over 35 and would require drivers diagnosed with the disorder to get treatment before being allowed to drive. The FMCSA has not adopted this rule. Current regulations only say that a driver who has a condition that may impact his/her ability to drive safely must not be allowed to do so. But, industry experts expect to see more focus on required screening and treatment for OSA in the future.
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