Truckers With Untreated OSA Have Higher Crash Risk
Written by Editor   
Sunday, April 17, 2016 12:00 AM

Truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who were not adequately treated for the condition were five times more likely to be involved in preventable crashes than drivers without the sleep disorder, researchers reported.

Truck drivers who were non-adherent with positive airway pressure treatment had a crash rate for preventable U.S. Department of Transportation-reportable crashes of 0.070/100,000 miles that was nearly five-fold more that the rate of 0.014/100,000 miles for matched controls (without sleep apnea) and fully compliant drivers.

Findings from this analysis of a large-employer screening and monitoring program for OSA in the trucking industry make a strong case for routinely screening commercial truck drivers for OSA, and requiring close monitoring and treatment of those who have it, the authors stated.

Screening for OSA is currently not mandated for commercial truck drivers, although they are required to undergo biennial examinations to determine their medical fitness to drive.  

Earlier investigations suggest that among the estimated 14 million commercial vehicle drivers in the U.S., between 17% and 25% have obstructive sleep apnea.

Screening for sleep apnea has been a hotly contested issue, and there has been a lot of pushback from drivers and the commercial trucking industry.  Until now, almost all of the data on OSA and accident risk has come from passenger car drivers and not commercial drivers.

The study findings emphasize the "pervasive threat" of untreated OSA to transportation safety, "It is critical for companies to implement comprehensive sleep apnea screening and treatment programs to ensure that truck drivers stay awake at the wheel.  

The Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are currently considering mandating the screening, evaluation, and treatment of rail and commercial motor vehicle drivers for OSA. In a statement published March 8, the agencies announced a 90-day public input period on the impact of such a mandate.  In a statement announcing the 90-day public comment period, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted that, it is "imperative for everyone's safety" that commercial motor vehicle drivers and train operators be "fully focused and immediately responsive at all times."