Study Shows Sleep-Deprived Truck Drivers Much More Likely to Crash

On the heels of a proposed effort to address truck drivers with sleep apnea, an unrelated study claims that truckers with untreated sleep apnea are five times more likely to crash than drivers without the condition.

Those who have sleep apnea, a condition that affects millions in this country, have difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. They suffer from shallow breathing or even stop breathing several times a night, and wake up often. It reportedly is the leading cause of daytime drowsiness, leading to inattention and a difficulty to focus. Those who have sleep apnea are treated with machines that deliver pressurized air while in bed, helping them to breathe better and therefore sleep better.

So there is understandable concern over individuals with sleep apnea who are also responsible on a daily basis for a vehicle the size and weight of a tractor-trailer. Fatigued truck drivers can cause fatal trucking accidents.

What can be done about Fatigued Truck Drivers?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is acting on this concern. It announced in March 2016 that it will seek feedback from the trucking industry regarding sleep apnea. FMCSA wants to know just how prevalent the ailment is among truck drivers, and potential costs to trucking companies if and when the agency mandates sleep apnea screening and treatment for truckers.

Currently, the FMCSA can only recommend that truck drivers with sleep apnea seek help from medical specialists. This data-gathering mission is the agency’s first step in perhaps establishing much tougher rules for fatigued truck drivers.

The recently released findings of a comprehensive new study indicate that formal protections from tired truck drivers are very much needed.

A team of researchers from Harvard and other institutions across the country compared the driving records of 1,600 truck drivers with sleep apnea against a group of 2,000 truckers without it. Of the group with sleep apnea, 360 truckers never sought treatment. The remainder either fully or partially complied with treatment protocols.

Tired Truckers and Preventable Catastrophic Crashes

The study found that those truckers who did not treat their sleep apnea were five times more likely to cause truck crashes than the drivers who did not have the condition. In published media reports, the study’s authors assert that mandatory screening and treatment for sleep apnea in the trucking industry will ultimately save lives, because drowsy truck drivers cause 20 percent of all truck crashes in this country.

Truckers who ignore identified risks willfully put others on the road in significant peril. So too do negligent trucking companies that fail to take drivers suspected or known to have any type of dangerous, untreated health issues off the road.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a family member in a crash caused by a truck driver, an attorney who represents truck accident victims can determine all who are responsible and seek justice on your behalf.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertising.