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Insurers and Federal Regulators Raise Concerns About Sleep Apnea in Truckers

By February 25, 2010July 17th, 2019Trucking Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the federal agency that regulates the trucking industry, has highlighted sleep apnea as a growing concern in commercial truck safety. So I was interested, as a Missouri semi truck accident attorney, to see a Feb. 22 piece on the same topic from Business Insurance. A 2002 study by the FMCSA found that 26% of the nation’s 3.4 million commercial drivers suffer from sleep apnea. That’s substantially higher than the estimated 6.62% of all Americans who have the disorder. This is a concern for safety groups, trucking companies and insurance companies because sleep apnea robs its victims of sleep, leaving them woozy in the daytime. The FMCSA and others are concerned that this could lead to increased numbers of serious accidents caused by sleep-deprived commercial drivers.
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder in which the neck muscles relax too much during sleep, causing interruptions in breathing that wake the patient up. It isn’t clear why truckers have such a high rate of sleep apnea, but groups at risk for the disorder include people with a body mass index of 30 or greater (considered obese), people with wide necks and men, especially older men. Because symptoms appear while the patient is unconscious, doctors believe many thousands of people suffer from it without realizing it, often for years. This presents a problem for regulators and trucking companies trying to identify drivers at risk for a sleep apnea-related accident. Another problem is that truck drivers don’t necessarily want to be screened or admit they have the problem, for fear of losing their jobs. Truckers oppose a proposed FMCSA rule requiring screening, but one trucking company in the article said its own diagnosis and screening program substantially reduced crashes.
As a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I strongly support the proposed federal rule that would make sleep apnea screening mandatory. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that sleepy driving causes thousands of crashes a year. It also said shift workers who drive at night or work long hours — both of which apply to truck drivers — are at special risk. Sleep deprivation can actually reduce drivers’ reaction times and focus, just like alcohol. This is risky even in an economy sedan — but in a large truck, it can be catastrophic. When the massive size and weight of a commercial truck hits a smaller car of truck, it brings much more force to the crash than another car would. All too often, the result is death or catastrophic injury to the people in the smaller vehicle, regardless of who was at fault.

This tendency to create devastating injuries is why we dedicate so much of our practice to trucking accidents at Carey, Danis & Lowe. Our clients are typically people who lost a family member or suffered permanent, lifelong disabilities because of a truck driver’s or trucking company’s unsafe choices. That includes the choice to hire a driver with a poor record or failure to screen drivers for common safety problems. In addition to being personally catastrophic, large truck accidents can also be financially catastrophic, causing very high medical bills and often taking a family member out of work. Our St. Louis tanker truck accident attorneys help clients claim these and all other costs related to the accident, as well as compensation for their personal, physical and emotional losses.
If you or a loved one was involved in a serious 18-wheeler accident that was not your fault, Carey, Danis & Lowe can help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please contact us through the Internet or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400.