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FMCSA Seeks New Solutions for Truck Driver Sleep Apnea

Earlier today, a Chicago truck accident lawyer at our firm read a news report posted on TTNews.com detailing a new initiative that has been developed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to help curb the increasing epidemic of truck driver sleep apnea. In a statement released by the chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal government is looking into mandated guidelines that would require drivers who are diagnosed with sleep apnea to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. The CPAP machines are designed to keep the user’s airway open during sleep.

Frequently discussed on our Illinois trucking accident blog, sleep apnea is a condition where the tongue and soft palate relax when a person sleeps. This ultimately causes the sufferer to undergo obstructed breathing – resulting in the sufferer to wake up so often that they are unable to maintain adequate sleep. The design of the CPAP machines permits for a constant stream of air into the nasal passages which allows for uninterrupted sleep. An additional aspect of the CPAP guideline would require the installment of these machines into the sleeper berth of tractor-trailers.

However, this concept has been met with criticism from the trucking industry’s fleet and vendor executives. It has been argued that the CPAP machines were designed for in-home usage – not in the sleeper berths of tractor-trailers. A trucking carrier in Wisconsin revealed that although sleep apnea screening and CPAP use is highly favored, the use of the machine in-truck would cause substantial problems. For instance, it was argued that in the event two truck drivers are en route in the same truck and one is in the sleeping berth using the machine – if the other driver hits a pothole the water from the humidifier in the CPAP machine will spill all over the CPAP user.

Additional criticism alleges that the machine will be unable to maintain power in the sleeping berth of a tractor-trailer during long trips. Given the sheer complexity and confusion associated with this possible mandated guideline, our Chicago trucking accident attorney learned that a trucking carrier has developed a task force to further examine the numerous issues associated with CPAP machine use in-truck, as well as, develop a secondary recommended practice. A spokesman for the trucking carrier in Wisconsin asserts that he wants manufacturers to design an extra-rugged CPAP machine that would be specifically designed and tailored for semi tractor-trailers.