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Truckers With Sleep Apnea

Snoring is a minor annoyance for some people, but it can also be a sign of a serious medical condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is when the throat muscles relax intermittently during sleep, causing obstruction of the airway.

Truck Driver Sleep Apnea LawPeople may, without realizing it, wake from five to 30 times an hour, which means they never get an adequate amount of sleep. They are likely to exhibit excessive daytime sleepiness, mood changes, and difficulty concentrating – all factors that could be dangerous when operating a vehicle.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Association had announced a proposed rule that would have required train operators and commercial truck drivers to be tested for OSA, but they scrapped that plan in August. In response to that news, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board expressed disappointment, saying sleep apnea was a “probable cause” in accidents it had investigated and that “the need for this rule-making is well documented.” And in September, the NTSB concluded an investigation of two train crashes – one of which killed a woman and injured 110 people – finding train operators’ undiagnosed sleep apnea was a factor in both crashes.

While some trucking companies may already be testing drivers for sleep apnea, there could be numerous drivers on the road who are unaware they have this condition. With no federal law that requires sleep apnea testing, undiagnosed sleep apnea may be discovered only during the ensuing investigation of a fatal truck crash.

If you’ve suffered a serious injury or lost a loved one in a commercial truck crash, you might be entitled to compensation. Contact the Evans/Reilley Law Firm, your trusted Austin truck accident lawyer, today to request your free, no-obligation consultation at 1-855-414-1012.

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

Obesity is a primary risk factor for OSA, as fatty deposits can put pressure on the airway. Other risks include high blood pressure, smoking, and diabetes – all known to be common in the trucking profession.

In 2014, the FMCSA published results of its National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury. The survey found that, compared to workers in other occupations, truckers are less healthy:

  • The prevalence of obesity in truckers was roughly twice as high (69 percent vs. 31) percent; the prevalence of morbid obesity was also about twice as high (17 percent vs. 7 percent).
  • The prevalence of a “normal” weight (meaning a Body Mass Index between 20 and 25) was only 8 percent, vs. 30 percent.
  • The prevalence of cigarette smoking was more than twice as high (51 percent vs. 19 percent).
  • Prevalence of self-reported diabetes was twice as high (14 percent vs. 7 percent).

Many people who have diabetes are unaware that they have it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 23.8 percent of the U.S. population – 7.2 million people – have undiagnosed diabetes.

Industry Perceptions

When the proposed sleep apnea rule was under consideration, federal agencies sought input from the trucking industry. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which includes trucking industry officials, recommended that the FMCSA require sleep apnea testing for drivers with a BMI of 40 or higher. A BMI of 30 is considered obese. A person is considered to have “severe obesity” if they have a BMI higher than 40 or are more than 100 pounds over their ideal body weight.

The MCSAC also said sleep apnea testing should be required for drivers with a BMI of 33 or higher if they have additional risk factors, such as hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, or are older than 41.

Last year, trucking industry leaders discussed sleep apnea at a conference, and opinions were divided about whether a federal testing law was necessary. An existing law requires truckers who have been diagnosed with OSA to use a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine while sleeping, for at least four hours a night, for seven out of every 10 days. Ideally, drivers should sleep through the night, but a trucking company executive said he knows some drivers set an alarm, waking up after 4 hours and 15 minutes so they can remove the PAP air mask.

Keeping Roadways Safe

For now, business leaders and state officials will have to weigh the risks of OSA in the trucking industry. Without policies that require sleep apnea testing, drowsy truck drivers may cause serious and deadly crashes.

When a commercial truck driver causes a serious crash, the people who are injured need a Texas personal injury attorney on their side. If you’ve suffered an injury in a trucking crash, contact the Evans/Reilley Law Firm online or at 1-855-414-1012 to get the help you need.

Attorney Chip Evans

Austin Attorney Chip EvansChip Evans is a partner at Evans & Herlihy. Chip brings to the firm more than 20 years of experience as a trial lawyer representing Plaintiffs. It is the desire to help individuals, not corporations, that attracts Chip to this side of the docket. [ Attorney Bio ]