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  • Writer's pictureR.L.

Sleep Apnea & Truck Drivers

Updated: Jul 1

Do you have a thick neck? How about diabetes? Hypertension? Then it is time to schedule a night time sleep study to see if your driving fatigue is being caused by sleep apnea. Studies show that many truck drivers are suffering from un-diagnosed sleep apnea.

Although you may not realize it, breathing can be interrupted, depriving your body of oxygen rich blood, feeling tired, and needing unscheduled sleep. The severity of this breathing disorder can occur in 10 second intervals over 400 times per night- and you never know it is happening. Other health indicators include drivers older than 42, obesity, a history of stroke, loud snoring and hypothyroidism. If you feel especially sluggish in the morning, tired throughout the day, snoring, just can’t get into the next gear mentally and physically, this could be the cause.

Truckers have real concerns about being tested. For owner operators, the cost of a sleep study could be a thousand dollars or more and may not count on insurance coverage. The good news is that the screening and study are non-invasive, takes one night at a sleep center. and if diagnosed, sleep apnea can be treated with CPAP, forced air machines.

As of now, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has not regulated sleep apnea studies, although solving the fatigue issue around crashes is well documented. Also, the FMCA, (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) continues to study the cause and effects of Sleep Apnea. For now, truck drivers screened and diagnosed for Sleep Apnea is determined by a medical examiner, without regulations or oversight.

Fatigue associated with untreated sleep apnea increases the rates of crashes, which everyone wants to avoid. Owner operators and companies are now investing in better mattresses to ensure restorative sleep. If you look into recent research studies by some trucking companies, they have studied effective ways to diagnose and treat drivers with sleep apnea. They found that some drivers truly ignore health symptoms — or don’t know they have sleep apnea.

There has been much discussion between physicians and trucking regulators over preferred methodology on diagnosis and treatment and the most tenuous topic - should it be regulated, or not regulated. Most motor carriers agree with pursuing better safety outcomes and benefits of treatments for their drivers. For now, they are patiently following the regulation debate.

Of course the hesitance of truckers also involves being sidelined and taken off the road by their companies or government transportation regulators if they are diagnosed with sleep apnea. But, that is unwarranted at this time. Obviously, the regulation issues are a slippery slope for truckers not wanting to lose their jobs and for trucking companies needing to replace these drivers.

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