Sleep apnea and truck drivers: Will the DOT do anything?

Sleep apnea is a serious issue for all Americans. Truck drivers who have sleep apnea pose serious risks on the road. That is why the U.S. Department of Transportation is trying to address and prevent sleep apnea in commercial truck drivers to keep everyone on the road safe.

The government agencies are asking for public input on the effects of sleep apnea in truck drivers and the importance of screening drivers to prevent accidents.

Current federal rules do not properly address sleep apnea in truck drivers. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that medical examinations need to be able to evaluate, diagnose and manage sleep apnea in commercial truck operators, which is not happening under current guidelines.

Sleep apnea can cause fatigue and drowsiness in truck drivers, which can make it unsafe to operate a large truck or commercial vehicle. How many truck drivers have sleep apnea? It’s hard for AASM to state how many truckers have sleep apnea, but they recently reported that more than 20 percent of truck drivers have the chronic condition.

Medical examiners are supposed to refer truck drivers with sleep apnea or another respiratory dysfunction for additional evaluation by a specialist. New guidelines could help prevent trucking accidents caused by truck drivers with sleep apnea or other conditions that cause fatigue. However, the process of creating new rules and guidelines is complex and takes time.

Until new screening and treatment guidelines are in place, truck drivers with severe sleep apnea may still be operating commercial vehicles. Studies show that drivers with sleep apnea have a higher risk of drowsy driving and it is not hard to imagine the hazards they pose on the road, especially for drivers who operate such large vehicles.

Victims of truck accidents should be aware of the risks of truck driver fatigue and work with an attorney to see if drowsy driving or sleep apnea contributed to the accident. Truck drivers and trucking companies can be held liable for accidents so it is best to consult a lawyer as soon as possible to protect your future.

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