The incidence rate of sleep apnea in the truck driving industry has received a lot of needed awareness over the past few years. Recent studies show that up to 50 percent of truck drivers are considered to be obese (as compared to 34 percent of the adult male population in other industries), and some industry estimates say that over a quarter of truck drivers have some form of sleep apnea.
With this realization comes the fairly scary assumption that truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea are tired drivers - drivers who are on our roadways far more than an average office worker with daytime drowsiness would be. This idea has sparked many debates within the trucking industry, the Department of Transportation agencies in each state, and Congress.
Below are quotes from a 2010 article by Jeff Casale on the state of regulations surrounding sleep apnea treatment and diagnosis, and truck driving:
"According to a 2002 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration commissioned study, out of 3.4 million licensed commercial drivers, approximately 26% of drivers suffering from some form of sleep apnea. Studies have shown that sleep apnea can severely impact driving performance by greatly increasing fatigue, boosting the risk of crashes."
"'I promise you there are thousands of commercial drivers out there that have some form of sleep apnea,' said Don Osterberg, vp of safety and driver training for Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National Inc. 'Many drivers don't want to talk about it, or are in denial that they have a medical condition, or don't even know they have it. They are not educated on sleepiness, and they might think that daytime sleepiness is normal to them and they don't realize it is abnormal.'
Mr. Osterberg said at least 17% of drivers at Schneider are afflicted with severe sleep apnea. To deal with the issue, Mr. Osterberg said Schneider recently funded an initiative to help diagnose and treat their drivers as a way to help mitigate health care costs and reduce the crash risk on the road.
As a result, Mr. Osterberg said Schneider has seen a 'significant reduction' in the frequency and severity of crashes.
'Making this a safety priority has paid back dividends,' he said."
For the full article contents, click here.
This article, and many more like it, bring up some serious concerns that can affect all US drivers, not just individuals with sleep apnea. Do you think that sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment standards in the trucking industry needs to be regulated by the Federal government, or do believe it can best be 'policed' through the individual trucking companies? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!