Transportation risk managers and commercial drivers who are trying their best to provide better safer roads are struggling with the complexity of sleep apnea, a disorder that contributes to daytime drowsiness. Such sleep disorders among truckers result in reduced efficiency, absenteeism, accidents and often death.
According to a 2002 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the American Trucking Associations study, among 3.4 million licensed commercial drivers, around 26% of drivers were suffering from some form of sleep apnea. Studies have shown that sleep apnea can severely impact driving performance by radically escalating fatigue and thereby boosting the risk of crashes.
It is more dangerous when a car transporter or a fuel truck transporter is affected with this disease as the damage caused will be more to the public and to the concerned organization. Experts say that though the commercial trucking industry is conscious of the commonness of sleep apnea among drivers, there is still a large amount to be learned in the way the condition is diagnosed, treated and monitored.
FMCSA has required the drivers who are diagnosed with sleep apnea to be "disqualified until diagnosis of sleep apnea is ruled out or has been treated successfully."
According to Christina Cullinan, director of workplace and fleet safety with the ATA, a FMCSA certified medical examiner must eventually decide whether a driver can continue driving or not.
If an inspector decides a driver likely suffers from sleep apnea, a sleep study will be advised, together with the use of a continuous positive airway pressure-or CPAP-machine.
It should be noted the FMCSA gives no guidance on how to recognize commercial drivers at risk for sleep apnea. The administration includes a question on its commercial driver medical certification form that asks particularly about sleep disorders, but it's up to medical examiners to require a trucker to go through a sleep study, or screening.