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Why Aren’t Commercial Truckers Being Screened for This Common Health Condition?

Posted On June 3, 2016 In Truck Accidents

Should truckers receive mandatory sleep apnea testing?Last week’s blog discussed how truck drivers and commercial carriers sometimes falsify hours-of-service logs to generate more profits. The longer truckers are on the road making deliveries, the more money commercial carriers stand to make.

Hours-of-service logs record resting periods for drivers so that they cannot drive for 19 hours straight (this is only an example). In last week’s blog, we discussed how a Wal-Mart trucker who had been awake for 28 hours severely injured comedian Tracy Morgan during a truck accident. Unfortunately, truck accidents involving tired truckers remain common.

What we did not mention in last week’s blog is that some health conditions are known to cause insomnia and excessive daytime drowsiness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show millions of Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that interrupts breathing during sleep. Sufferers of sleep apnea wake up several times each night and often experience excessive daytime drowsiness as a result. Sleep apnea is so incredibly common that chances are you personally know someone who suffers from the condition.

According to the CDC, sufferers of sleep apnea experience difficulty concentrating, remembering information and driving. We have troubling news if you are reading this and thinking to yourself “that would be an awful mix of symptoms for commercial truck drivers.” Many commercial truck drivers may have sleep apnea. Research released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests 20 percent of commercial truck drivers suffer from the condition. Another study released by the Harvard School of Public Health argues commercial truck drivers are five times more likely to crash if they suffer from sleep apnea!

You might be reading this and thinking, “there must be a rule that would bar these people from driving commercial trucks!”, and you would be wrong. While this condition can easily be tested for and treated among commercial truck drivers, it is not. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has experienced difficulty instituting rules that would test and treat drivers for sleep apnea. Having sleep apnea would not necessarily bar commercial drivers from receiving a CDL (commercial driver’s license), but the rule would ensure that they were treated before driving trucks that weigh several tons.

Not everyone who has sleep apnea is aware they suffer from the condition. However, in some cases, commercial truck drivers know they have sleep apnea and lie about it while applying for a commercial driver’s license. Some commercial carriers may also choose to test their drivers.

The Importance of a ‘Sleep Apnea Rule’ for Commercial Truck Drivers

The FMCSA has recognized the need for a rule that would test commercial drivers for sleep apnea. In 2012, the FMCSA attempted to set a body mass index (also known as ‘BMI’, a combination of height and weight) threshold where drivers would be tested for sleep apnea, but met resistance from trucking industry lobbyists and Congress. If the rule had been implemented, drivers with BMIs of over 35 would have been required to undergo mandatory sleep apnea testing. Obesity (a BMI over 30) is a major cause of sleep apnea.

The FMCSA has recently announced it would like to revisit the possibility of a rule involving sleep apnea testing. Sleep apnea is treated with pressurized air devices (commonly called APAPs and CPAPs). Once drivers test positive for sleep apnea, they would simply undergo treatment and return to driving.

The personal injury and truck accident attorneys at Mike Love & Associates, LLC will fight to hold negligent trucking companies accountable for causing accidents.

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