Driving with Sleep Apnea

Update (4/27/2016): The DOT will be holding three public forums to discuss the rulings and to gather more information on sleep apnea and it’s affects on drivers and the industry.

The Department of Transportation will soon be publishing a notice seeking feedback from the trucking industry on a possible required sleep apnea screening and treatment rule.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that one-third (28%) of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. As the statistic continues to grow, the Department of Transportation is issuing opinions and will be publishing a notice to seek feedback from the trucking industry. The request for feedback is the first step in a potential rule for the industry which will require screening and treatment to make sure our drivers get enough sleep.

What is Sleep Apnea?

If you don’t already know, sleep apnea is a disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Breathing pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to minutes and can occur 30 times or more an hour. The disorder is a serious condition that often goes unrecognized and undiagnosed making it dangerous to those affected.

Are Truck Drivers at Risk?

Truck drivers who drive while tired, are not only putting themselves in danger but also putting everyone else on the road in danger. Disturbed sleep affects daytime alertness, performance and leads to excessive sleepiness throughout the day. Drivers who do not get enough sleep tend to have delayed reactions and will not make as good of decisions on the road as they would if they would get a normal night’s sleep. This can lead to accidents that could be prevented with an easy fix.

When people are drowsy, they often don’t even realize that they are exhausted which makes not getting enough sleep that much more dangerous, especially when performing tasks like driving. Lack of sleep leads to problems such as coping with mental tasks because it slows down your ability to carry out logical reasoning and effects the ability to use your brain. You begin to react slower and when you try to make decisions, it can be much more difficult and it can be much harder to pay attention to what you are doing, even if it is a simple task. Other side effects include the weakening of your memory and coordination.

Truck drivers can be a danger on the roads if the disorder is not recognized properly. As the new rule for treatment and required testing is being discussed, your feedback can make a difference in making the industry safer and healthier for not only truck drivers but other drivers on the road.