Sleep Apnea Regulations: Impact on Truck Drivers
In 2020, researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study involving 20,000 truckers. As a result, they concluded that nearly 49% of commercial motor vehicle drivers could be at risk for obstructive sleep apnea. The main question is how this disease increases the risk of a driver being involved in a crash. And what truckers with sleep apnea should do to continue their CDL careers?
What is Sleep Apnea?
This respiratory disease is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the person is asleep. There are different forms of sleep apnea, but obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequent type. These periods of lost breath can last from 10 seconds to more than a minute and occur multiple times throughout the night. That results in a poor night of sleep and daytime drowsiness. Of course, this condition greatly increases the driver’s risk of being involved in a fatigue-related motor vehicle crash.
Can You Continue Trucking if You Have Sleep Apnea?
Yes. First of all, there are no federal regulations for truck drivers with sleep apnea. But at the same time, a person with a medical history or clinical diagnosis of any condition likely to interfere with their ability to drive safely cannot be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce. And in especially severe cases, this disease can be the reason why you will not pass a DOT physical examination.
Unfortunately, the fact that there is no law on DOT physical sleep apnea means that medical examiners only have this FMCSA guidance. But it does not contain enough information on how to screen truck drivers for the condition and what treatment to prescribe. This means that conflict situations may arise and the opinion of another examiner will be needed.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Fortunately, most cases of sleep apnea can be treated successfully. If you think you may be suffering from it, see the doctor for a diagnosis. The most effective treatment, in this case, is continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP). This is a mask that fits snugly over the nose and mouth while breathing. It increases air pressure in a person’s throat so that his/her airway doesn’t collapse when he/she breathes in.
Find more information about sleep apnea here.