Drivers with obstructive sleep apnea have 2.5 times greater risk of having a highway accident than drivers without sleep apnea as the condition cases driver fatigue (Findley LJ, Unverzagt ME, Suratt PM, Automobile accidents involving patients with obstructive sleep apnea, Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988 Aug; 138(2): 337-40. 1988). The FMCSA Medical Review Board recently recommended that drivers be tested for sleep apnea because of the risk of fatigue. The scientific basis for the recommendation is well understood and researched, the question becomes what will actually be passed into law? We should see a proposed regulation from the FMCSA by the change of the current administration in January 2009.
In the meantime trucking companies would be well advised to have their drivers tested, and if necessary treated, immediately. Failure to have a driver tested may result in a tragedy easily avoided. While I am aware that when a driver is diagnosed with sleep apnea he is unable to drive until treated, isn’t that short period better than having a wreck that results in injury to the driver or to others?