Affect of Sleep Apnea On Safety of Truckers

by | Mar 14, 2016

A truck driver’s health directly impacts their ability to operate a big rig truck safely. One often overlooked issue that affects a truckers ability to safely do their job are respiratory conditions.

Sleep Apnea

Nearly one third of truck drivers have sleep apnea. One problem is that the condition is under diagnosed. Persons with the condition stop breathing for short periods when they are asleep. This can occur up to 400 times a night. Since sleep apnea occurs when the person is asleep, many people don’t realize they have it unless a partner mentions it. Recent studies show that truckers who have untreated sleep apnea have five times more crashes than other truck drivers.

This makes it impossible for the person to get a restful nights sleep. As a result they are fatigued during the day, even if they have gotten enough hours of sleep. Falling asleep isn’t the only risk associated with the disorder. It can also affect concentration and memory, which can also increase the truckers risk of an accident.

Current Regulations and Reporting

Truckers have to undergo a health examination once every two years. They are not currently required to check for signs or risk factors of sleep apnea, however. The truckers are asked one question about a possible sleep disorder on the questionnaire that they are required to fill out. The issue is many don’t recognize symptoms like loud snoring or daytime fatigue as being out of the ordinary, and many that do realize their condition don’t admit it out of fear of loosing their job.

Diagnosis and Treatment

For most people, sleep apnea is a very treatable condition. However, they must be diagnosed first. While there are signs and risk factors to be taken into account, the only way to diagnose sleep apnea for certain is to do a sleep study where the patient is observed and monitored while they sleep.  Sleep apnea is generally treated with a CPAP mask, but oral appliances and surgery can be options for some.

A trucking accident attorney can use untreated sleep apnea as a way to prove that the trucker was liable for the accident. While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, there are a growing number of cases where a trucking accident attorney recovered for their client on the basis of sleep apnea.