Officials with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are engaging in ongoing talks focused on combating health issues like sleep apnea, a major problem contributing to tractor trailer accidents.
Sleep apnea is a condition often associated with obesity that can disrupt normal breathing patterns while a person is at rest. As a result, sleep is disrupted and people suffering from this condition often find themselves fatigued.
This fatigue can lead to very serious truck accident injuries once the driver gets behind the wheel. Fatigue is a significant contributing factor in as many as one out of every seven tractor trailer crashes.
Truck drivers are especially likely to be obese and thus are more at risk for sleep apnea. The nature of the job requires a person to sit for eight hours or more each day and doesn’t provide many opportunities for a regular exercise cycle. As a result, as many as 40 percent of truck drivers are classified as significantly overweight.
Truck drivers receive medical exams every couple years, but it has never been required that they be tested for sleep apnea as part of the exam. That may change in the future as the American Trucking Associations estimate that as many as one-third of truckers suffer from the condition.
While the FMCSA is discussing the final changes to their health monitoring policy, proactive truckers and their companies should be doing everything they can to start exercise programs and reduce their weight so they are not at risk for sleep apnea. This is not only for the driver’s personal health and well being, but for the safety of everyone on the road.