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Trucking Industry Split on Sleep Apnea As A Driver Safety Issue

Published September 2, 2019 by Seerden Law Firm, PLLC
Trucking Industry Split on Sleep Apnea As A Driver Safety Issue

Researchers from the University of Minnesota recently reported that truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea have a preventable crash risk five times higher than those who received treatment for the sleep disorder. This disturbing statistic highlights the importance of mandatory testing for truckers — something that the trucking industry has long debated.

Currently, the Department of Transportation does not specifically require sleep apnea screenings for drivers. Instead, it’s up to doctors, individual trucking companies or truck drivers to see that they get the testing they need. If they don’t, they could be putting innocent lives at risk, and putting themselves at risk for a lawsuit.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes individuals to stop breathing for small amounts of time while they are sleeping. Those that suffer from the condition don’t get enough oxygen at night. This typically causes them to gasp, waking them up from sleep multiple times in the night.

Snoring is a primary symptom of sleep apnea. It’s common for someone that sleeps in the same room as a person to suspect sleep apnea before the person living with it knows they have it. Typically, people with sleep apnea don’t think anything is wrong and believe their sleep cycle is normal.

Causes Of Sleep Apnea

Anyone can suffer from sleep apnea. However, there are certain factors that can increase a person’s risk. These include:

  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Narrow upper airway
  • Being overweight
  • Having a large overbite, a recessed chin, or a small jaw
  • Having a neck that is larger than 17 inches for men, or larger than 16 inches for women
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Ethnicity

Among the 1.87 million U.S. nonfarm commercial drivers estimated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 to 28 percent are expected to have at least mild obstructive sleep apnea based on studies of commercial drivers, according to the Minnesota researchers.

Screening Truck Drivers For Sleep Apnea

Having untreated sleep apnea can lead to excessive sleep no matter what time of day it is. Because truck drivers often work unconventional hours, it’s critical for them to be getting quality sleep during rest breaks. But because sleep apnea interrupts the sleep cycle, sufferers rarely get enough of the “restorative sleep” that leaves them feeling refreshed. That means that even if they slept a full 8 hours, it’s likely that they wouldn’t be as well-rested as someone without the disorder.

The trucking industry does require mandatory rest periods for truckers, which must be documented to ensure compliance. But drivers with untreated sleep apnea may still be a danger on the roads despite following rest-period regulations because the quality of their rest is so poor.

How To Overcome Sleep Apnea

While the traditional treatment for sleep apnea is a CPAP mask that opens a person’s airways at night, there are other home remedies to try to combat the condition. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Yoga
  • Changing sleep positions, particularly not sleeping on your back
  • Using a humidifier while you sleep
  • Avoiding smoking and alcoholic beverages

By employing these home remedies, individuals can experience fewer symptoms and issues associated with their sleep apnea.

How Can Seerden Law Help Me?

Sleep apnea is a serious condition and can cause catastrophic accidents and injuries if a driver operating a massive truck suffers from it. If you’ve been in a trucking accident and believe the truck driver was to blame, call Seerden Law Firm today. Our Houston truck accident attorneys know how to fight for the rights of accident victims and can will demand for maximum compensation for you.

Contact us to schedule your free consultation.

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