2013 US Trucking Industry News — Sleep Apnea Policy for Truckers Stirs Controversy

Sleep Apnea truckers

Sleep Apnea truckers

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The used-to-be guidance on sleep disorder testing and treatment for the truck drivers is a soon-to-be U.S. House Bill. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee together with the House Majority Leader released its provisions with regard to the rule passed by the Federal Motors Carrier Safety Administration on sleep Apnea.


Majority Leader Eric Canor and TIC said that if it were to be a rule, it has to go through the formal process, so it could be properly evaluated. This will allow industry officials a further cost-benefit analysis before the rule can be released as final.


According to Rep. Larry Buschon (R-Md.) and Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-III), obstructive sleep disorder alone would cost $1 billion each year. Therefore, the rule to force the trucking industry to let commercial truck drivers have testing and treatment is now on hold for the moment.


The Sleep Apnea Surgicure physicians worry about how long it would take the process before it will be set final. Despite this, D. Ochs, MD. is hopeful that commercial truck drivers must still undergo Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) screening, diagnosis and treatment. He said, “We respect the desire in the trucking industry and among lawmakers to ensure that protective measures related to Obstructive Sleep Apnea take into account the full breadth of the issue. At the same time, it is my fervent wish that commercial drivers struggling to get a good night’s sleep do not put off screening just because the law doesn’t yet compel diagnosis and treatment. There are many options out there for those who suffer from OSA, and they need to be explored by those in at-risk demographics.”


In relation to this, FMCSA discussed the Maxillo-Mandibular Advancement (MMA) efficiency treatment for potential individuals. This therapy is thought to focus on the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which most truck drivers suffer from because of the time demands or the nature of their job.


Why is FMCSA Forceful of the Sleep Apnea Rule?


According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, which was sponsored by FMCSA, one-third or twenty eight percent of the commercial truck drivers with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) are suffering from mild to severe Obstructive Severe Apnea.


Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when an individual’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. Medical specialists say that the interruptions occur because of lack of oxygen in the brain, or that the air way passage on the throat is blocked. In addition, the interruptions can last at least 10 seconds and can happen 400 times or more in a single sleep setting. Therefore, it is a serious and life-threatening disorder that needs immediate treatment.


Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea Among Truck Drivers


The study emphasized on some factors that may have led to sleep apnea among drivers. First, truck drivers are at risk of sleep apnea if they have a family history of sleep apnea, having a small upper airway, being overweight, having a recessed chin, small jaw, or a large overbite, a large neck size (17 for men, 16 for women), smoking and alcohol use, being age 40 and older and ethnicity.


Symptoms of Sleep Apnea Among Truck Drivers


If the truck driver experiences the following: loud snoring; morning headaches and nausea; gasping or choking while sleeping; loss of sex drive/ impotence; excessive daytime sleepiness; irritability and/or feelings of depression; disturbed sleep, concentration and memory problems; and frequent nighttime urination, then it is possible that the truck driver is suffering from sleep apnea.


FMCSA emphasized on the effects of sleep apnea to truck drivers. Having the disorder might affect the driver in their daytime driving routine. If the driver suffers from it, then this may affect their driving performance, which may later lead to bigger problems or accidents on the road.


The disorder, if left untreated, can make the driver have difficulty in staying awake, alert and focused while driving. Many drivers who experienced motor crashes said that they never fall asleep while driving. However, medical specialists retaliated that sleep apnea may have consumed the alertness and focus of drivers on the road, leading to a crash.


What happens to truck drivers diagnosed of Sleep Apnea? If the rule on sleep apnea will run through a formal process and if it will be formally enacted, then truck drivers must be aware of the overall content of the rule. According to the FMCSA, the drivers may or may not be disqualified from driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). This is because having the disorder may affect their ability to drive safely. It will be then dependent on the diagnosis if the driver is really fit to drive. Drivers who are diagnosed from mild to severe sleep apnea disorder are then prohibited to drive.


Also, the trucking companies or motor carrier must comply with the rule in case it will be final. They have the authority to disqualify drivers with mild to severe disorders because staying awake means staying alive. Partly, the trucking company is held responsible for the safety of their truck drivers, hence the regulation on sleep apnea screening and testing.


The good news is that sleep apnea can be treated. As soon as the driver is diagnosed, he must confer with a physician regarding his condition. The medical examiner has to essentially confirm if the driver is fit for duty. Medical specialists suggest drivers to undergo the diagnosis and full treatment. This will help CDL holders to secure their jobs and to stay safe in driving.


Over all, the U.S. House and FMCSA are concerned most importantly on both the public highways safety and personal health of every truck driver. So, to the truck drivers out there — Are you 40 years old or older? Do you feel sleepy during the day? Or do you snore? Do you smoke or drink alcohol? If you answer yes to all, then you might be at risk with sleep apnea. Your personal health, safety and career lies on your decision whether to make a step, or wait for the implementation of the rule.




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