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FMCSA Advisers Recommend Sleep Apnea Screening Standards to Prevent Accidents

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advisers for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are increasing pressure on the agency to establish stronger screening standards for the detection of sleep apnea among truck drivers. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board are specifically recommending that the agency require medical examiners to test truck drivers with a body mass index of 35 and above for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea-linked truck driver fatigue has received a lot of attention as one of the primary safety issues facing the trucking industry. Several studies have confirmed that sleep apnea is associated with obesity. San Fernando valley truck accident lawyers have found that truck drivers are at a high risk of obesity because of their lifestyle, which includes poor diet and lack of exercise. In fact, the incidence of sleep apnea in the truck driver population is higher than in the general population.

Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person suffers from respiratory interruptions at night, and as a result, suffers from fatigue and lethargy in the daytime. A person who suffers from sleep apnea is constantly tired and drowsy. A truck driver like this is more likely to doze off at the wheel, increasing the risks of an accident. In fact, truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea are at a 242% higher risk of being involved in an accident compared to those who do not suffer from the sleep disorder.

Now, the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board are advising the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to modify its guidance to include requirements that would immediately disqualify truck drivers who fall asleep at the wheel, or are involved in causing an accident while they are driving under the influence of fatigue. The committees are also advising that drivers with a body mass index of 35 and above be screened for sleep apnea, because recent research has found that body mass index is a primary indicator of the presence of sleep apnea. Typically, the higher the person's body mass index, the higher the risk of sleep apnea. By screening overweight truck drivers for sleep apnea, trucking companies would be able to detect the condition as quickly as possible, and place the driver in a treatment program.


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