Research done by two universities showed that truck drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who don’t stick with a mandated treatment program have five times the risk of a severe crash.
The study, co-authored by researchers at the University of Minnesota, Morris and at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute, showed that 60% of drivers who declined the mandated sleep apnea treatment quit their jobs voluntarily.
However, federal regulations allow those drivers to keep their diagnosis of sleep apnea private, enabling them to work for other carriers.
“Given the amount of job turnover in parts of the trucking industry, we can reasonably assume these drivers are going to drive for another firm,” said Virginia Tech’s Jeff Hickman, one of the co-authors of the article about the study that appeared in the March 21 online edition of the journal Sleep.
“Essentially, as long as specific rigorous screening standards for obstructive sleep apnea are not in place, these drivers, if they remain untreated, are likely to remain a risk on the roadways.”
According to the authors, the study represents the first large-scale database available to determine how screening, diagnosing and monitoring obstructive sleep apnea among truck drivers can affect their crash risk.
More than 1,600 drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea were compared in the study to an equal number of drivers who were deemed unlikely to have the condition.
“If we [looked] at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who refuse treatment would have 70 preventable serious truck crashes, compared to 14 crashes experienced by both a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment,” Minnesota, Morris professor Stephen Burks said.