Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) has long been know to be a problem in the trucking industry. A recent study confirms overweight drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash, 54% more likely than other drivers! The researchers stated that OSA is most likely the cause of the increased crash risk.
Drivers who have OSA fail to get enough sleep, drive tired, and drive down the road "nodding" off. These "micro sleeps," where the eyes close for a few seconds or shorter, the driver nods, then "wakes" back up, have the 80,000 pound tractor trailer going down the road BLIND. During these nodding periods wrecks happen because the driver has no idea what is going on around the truck.
OSA is frequently found in overweight people, and trucking companies can expect OSA, more likely than not, with drivers with a body mass index (BMI) over 30 (Obese). The National Institute of Health has a BMI calculator HERE for easy calculation of your BMI. If it is over 30, and you are a truck driver, you should immediately be checked for OSA. OSA is a condition contributed to by the long hours a driver spends sitting down, fast food eaten on the road, and the lack of places to exercise. Trucking companies know the FMCSA prohibits drivers with untreated OSA (OSA can typically be treated with a CPAP machine, many of which are made for truck drivers.) to drive a tractor trailer.
Even though OSA is a known danger in the industry, unsafe trucking companies have generally failed to take precautions against putting drivers with OSA on the road. These days there are hundreds of articles about the dangers of fatigue and OSA in every truck industry trade publication. Any trucking company that doesn’t know about OSA at this point, and the dangers it causes, is so incompetent and dangerous that they should IMMEDIATELY be taken off the road! Most trucking companies already have OSA screening programs in place. While Schneider National and I have had our disputes in the past (HERE), I will point out that they have had an OSA policy since 2004. J.B. Hunt entered into a program with SleepSafe in 2009 for its drivers to be tested and treated for OSA.
Sleepsafe, a company employing doctors that specialize in OSA in the trucking industry, estimated that trucking companies recouped the full amount spent on OSA programs in the first 4-10 months, with cost savings thereafter (Article at TruckingInfo.com HERE ). Far from being an expense, OSA policies saved trucking companies money .. and now clearly save lives as well.