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How does sleep apnea affect truck drivers?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that can continue to haunt someone’s days long after the restless nights are over.

Many of those who suffer from sleep apnea fit the general description of many long-distance truckers: They’re sedentary, they smoke, they have a poor diet and their sleep patterns are often disrupted. Trucking is generally a difficult, lonely job that tends to be both unhealthy and sedentary.

Sufferers of the disease actually stop breathing over and over again in the middle of the night — essentially choking and gasping for air throughout the entire time.

As a result of their poor sleep, they end up drowsy and unfocused the next day. A lot of sleep apnea victims also end up suffering from heart problems and serious fatigue. The biggest risk, naturally, is that a trucker with sleep apnea will become so tired that he or she will simply fall asleep behind the wheel.

Truckers with sleep apnea who are untreated end up in preventable accidents at a rate that’s five times as high as truckers who don’t have the disorder.

Despite this fact, there’s no federal regulations about sleep apnea and trucking. While the rules do mention sleep apnea as an example of a condition that could affect a trucker’s ability to operate safely, there’s no required testing for the disorder. Many people with sleep apnea — truckers and otherwise — don’t realize that they have it until they’re tested. Snoring can be a known symptom of the disease — but if a trucker mostly sleeps alone, who is going to complain of snoring?

Many truckers feel like there’s not enough evidence that sleep apnea causes trucking fatalities and their professional organizations are resistant to the idea of mandatory testing and treatment. Many truckers fear they’d be out of a job if smaller companies were forced to foot the bill for treatment of sleep apnea.

Because the nation is experiencing a shortage of truckers, truckers have a lot more political power than they have in the past — which means many may stay on the road even though they’re experiencing medical problems like sleep apnea that should give them pause.

If you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident with a truck, make certain that you explore all your legal options. There are a lot of potential factors that need to be explored in truck accidents, like sleep apnea — and it’s very possible that an accident could have been avoided.

Source: Trucks.com, “Truck Drivers Can Expect More Sleep Apnea Rules,” accessed March 06, 2018