Sleep apnea is a health condition that prevents its sufferers from getting sufficient restful sleep. When it strikes a truck driver, sleep apnea can make it difficult to get enough sleep to keep up with a typical commercial trucking schedule. The result can be an increase in truck accidents caused by drowsy driving. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has therefore decided to recommend stricter standards for commercial carriers in identifying and addressing the problem of sleep apnea. The FMCSA is concerned that the current efforts to evaluate and treat drivers for sleep apnea are insufficient.
The FMCSA proposal would require that truck drivers with a body mass index at or above 35 be evaluated for sleep apnea. The condition has long been associated with obesity and a high BMI is considered a primary indicator in identifying sleep apnea sufferers. In addition, drivers who fall asleep while driving or who are involved in crashes caused by fatigued driving would be required to undergo evaluation for sleep apnea.
The standards are intended to address a common problem among commercial drivers: fatigue. Sleep apnea can cause a condition known as chronic fatigue. A driver suffering from chronic fatigue will exhibit reduced reaction time and will be more susceptible to distracted driving. At least one researcher found that sleep apnea sufferers are 242 percent more likely to get in a crash than non-sufferers.
Sleep apnea is a treatable condition. Given the health impact of sleep apnea and the increased risk of crashes among drivers who have the condition, safety advocates have every reason to address the issue in a comprehensive manner. A thorough sleep apnea policy could reduce truck accidents and make truck drivers and everyone they share the road with safer.
Source: Truckinginfo.com, "FMCSA Proposes Guidance for Sleep Apnea," by Oliver B. Patton, 20 April 2012