A recent article by Business Insurance magazine has roused attention surrounding the issue of sleep apnea among truckers. The article cites a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration that revealed that the percentage of commercial truck drivers with sleep apnea is very high. The study showed that about a quarter of commercial truck drivers suffer from some type of sleep apnea, however many people do not know that they have this sleep disorder. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person’s airway is constricted while sleeping, which causes constant waking up during the night and interrupted sleep. The symptoms sound like snoring or gasping in one’s sleep. Sleep apnea is most common in people with a body mass index of over 30 and a neck circumference of higher than 17 inches and have other health issues related to weight, and is seen mostly in obese individuals. To read more about sleep apnea and trucking accidents, click on the hyperlink.
The reason that this high percentage of sleep apnea in truck drivers can be so dangerous is that a common effect of sleep apnea is daytime drowsiness, due to interrupted sleep during the night. Studies have shown that drivers suffering from sleep apnea are 2.5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than drivers that are not suffering from this condition. Given the high number of truck drivers that are believed to have sleep apnea, this is clearly a problem with truck drivers, in that they need to be alert and aware when driving so as to avoid trucking accidents. Many trucking companies are not aware of the prevalence of sleep apnea among their drivers and therefore are not taking any actions to try to reduce sleep apnea among drivers.
According to USA Today, one way in which the trucking companies may try to curb this problem is by suggesting that truck drivers undergo a sleep study once they hit a certain weight. The goal here is to try to detect sleep apnea in drivers and get them treatment for the condition before allowing them back on the road. Treatment options range from surgery to certain types of devices that can clear the breathing passage while the person is sleeping. This is a problem that needs to be addressed in order to hopefully try to limit the number of truck crashes.