Testing Commercial Truck Drivers for Sleep Apnea
Truck side mirror

Commercial truck drivers are prone to sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea can lead to dangerously fatigued truck drivers and be catastrophic for others on the road.

Obstructive sleep apnea forces the throat muscles to relax periodically through the night, temporarily blocking a person’s airway. This can stop a person’s breathing for a slight moment and interrupt sleep.

These interruptions can occur hundreds of times a night, leaving a sufferer exhausted the next day.

Half of Commercial Truck Drivers May Have Sleep Apnea

A 2020 study from Virginia Tech University concluded that 49% of commercial truck drivers are at risk for sleep apnea.  The study screened 20,000 commercial truck drivers.  Prior to the screening, about 7% of the truck drivers said they potentially had the disorder and 86% said they did not. The remainder of the truck drivers knew they had it.

Researchers then screened the truck drivers and determined that almost 10,000 of the drivers had obstructive sleep apnea “potential.”

The demands of commercial trucking can lead to sleep apnea. Sitting in a truck cab for hours every day, often eating fast food, is a sedentary lifestyle that can lead to weight gain. Obesity is one risk factor for the sleep disorder.

Fatigued truck drivers are known to cause serious commercial truck crashes. Federal Hours of Service rules dictate how often a commercial truck driver can drive and include mandatory rest periods.

Tired commercial truck drivers are not uncommon.  According to the Truck Safety Coalition, a non-profit group focused on making commercial trucking safer:

  • 65% of commercial truckers said they often or sometimes feel drowsy when driving
  • Nearly half of commercial truck drivers said they had fallen asleep while driving within the past year

Missouri Commercial Truck Drivers Medical Examiners

In Missouri, commercial truck drivers obtaining or renewing their commercial driver’s license must pass a physical exam by a state-certified medical examiner. Federal rules do not require them to check Missouri truck drivers for sleep apnea.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently published a proposed update to its Medical Examiner’s Handbook.  The handbook has federal health requirements for commercial truckers and guidelines for certified medical examiners to consider.

In 2016 the federal government proposed rules for sleep apnea testing of commercial truck drivers. The rules eventually where shelved.  The medical examiner handbook revisions include a link to those 2016 recommendations, but still there are no federal mandates requiring medical examiners to test commercial truck drivers for sleep apnea.

Known conditions that may cause a catastrophic truck accident, such as bad truck brakes, improperly loaded cargo, or tired truck drivers who have sleep apnea, should be addressed.  When they are not, all negligent parties should be held to account for the damages and losses they cause

If you were seriously injured or lost a loved one in a crash with a commercial truck, speak with a personal injury lawyer about your legal rights.

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

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham. Posted in Blog August 26, 2020.


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