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Why aren't all truck drivers tested for sleep apnea?

Drowsy driving is a well known concern for motorists. It is especially dangerous if the drowsy driving is behind the wheel of a semi. 

Because truck drivers spend the majority of their days in control of a vehicle weighing up to 80,000 pounds, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates rest periods for truckers as a way of combating the problem, but it doesn't account for sleep apnea. Even when a truck driver follows the regulations regarding rest periods, it doesn't mean he or she actually got good sleep, and part of that may be due to sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea stop breathing for at least 10 seconds as they sleep. This can happen numerous times during the night, which does not allow for a good night's sleep. It can also lead to a litany of health problems such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Mood lapses
  • Memory lapses
  • High blood pressure
  • Drowsy driving

Truckers who suffer from this condition without treatment put their lives and the lives of everyone else on the road in jeopardy.

What can regulators do about it?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 1.87 million people drive commercial, non-farm vehicles. Of that number, somewhere between 17% and 28% suffer from at least mild sleep apnea. The Obama administration attempted to mandate sleep apnea testing for truck drivers in order to make sure they received treatment and did not drive while sleep deprived due to this condition. The Trump administration did not institute this requirement.

That does not mean that individual trucking companies can't require drivers to undergo the testing or that individual drivers can't undergo it on their own. Cost is one reason why many have avoided doing so. However, that argument may not hold as much water as it used to. Instead of taking days to complete, testing can occur in a shorter amount of time. The stigma that used to exist regarding sleep apnea is also disappearing. Even so, the debate continues.

What can you do about it?

If you suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a truck accident involving a drowsy trucker, it may be that the driver suffers from untreated sleep apnea. A thorough investigation into the life of the truck driver, especially in the days leading up to the crash, could prove useful if you pursue compensation for your financial losses.

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