Truckers Need Sleep Apnea Care

Posted on Posted in Sleep Apnea
trucker sleep apnea
Ken, a trucker, with sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, the disorder in which breathing pauses many times in a night’s sleep, had particularly large impacts on truck drivers. It’s well known that sleep apnea causes severe daytime drowsiness as a result of very poor sleep quality, and that’s a hard enough side effect to deal with when working in a building or at a desk, but chronic daytime fatigue takes on a whole new meaning for truckers.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, there are 7 million people employed as active interstate drivers, with 341,000 crashes occurring each year. Of those crashes, 31% are listed as being caused by fatigue. It goes without saying that fatigue-related crashes involving 18-wheelers are devastating both to the truck driver and any other cars on the road. In fact, commercial-vehicle crashes are seven times more likely to cause fatalities than other types of crashes.

Though there is no exact number, it’s believed that sleep apnea impacts between 30% and 80% of commercial truck drivers, a statistic that is exacerbated by the fact that many truckers are middle-aged men who don’t have time for physical exercise. Every truck driver with untreated sleep apnea drastically increases his risk of causing a fatigue-related accident.

It’s of the utmost importance that truck drivers receive the treatment they need, because just one night of sleep apnea treatment with a portable device can lower crash risk, eliminate daytime drowsiness, and stimulate more attentive driving- not to mention the plethora of other benefits included from such treatment like stronger heart health.

However, problems have long prevented truckers from diagnosing sleep apnea. Some are concerned that a diagnosis will put their jobs at risk and place them in financial jeopardy, while others are seen by doctors not educated enough about apnea to properly identify the root issue.

Since no clear and specific rules exist regarding truck drivers and sleep apnea, most companies are not implementing systematic screening efforts, and the problem just keep continuing. This is a shame, since sleep apnea is common, easy to identify, and simple to treat. Ignoring or missing the diagnosis leads to incredible expenses, injuries, and fatal crashes.