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Govt. agency: New sleep apnea standards will reduce truck crashes

Overweight truck drivers will be under pressure to address their sleep apnea issues once new sleep apnea practices are implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). On the recommendation of two medical advisory boards, the FMCSA is reshaping its current policies and opening the doors to wholesale reform of its rules and regulations.

The organization's ultimate goal is to reduce the number of commercial truck accidents, particularly those resulting from driver fatigue. Sleep apnea in overweight drivers can lead to chronic fatigue that increases the risk of a truck crash significantly, putting drivers in Ohio and elsewhere in the country at risk.

It should be noted that the guidelines are not hard-and-fast rules, although they may eventually be adopted as such. The guidelines are an effort to provide support to medical examiners and to try to curb the prevalence in sleep apnea in truck drivers.

The key recommendation is to require any truck driver with a body mass index of 35 or greater to be evaluated for sleep apnea. Evaluations discovering sleep apnea would trigger further testing and treatment processes, including the use of a PAP machine.

Positive sleep apnea tests could result in a driver being banned from driving until he or she becomes compliant with sleep apnea treatment. Options exist, however, to grant the driver conditional certifications that would provide him or her with more time to become compliant.

Recent research has revealed that drivers with sleep apnea are at a 242 percent increased risk of being involved in an accident, in contrast to people who don't suffer from that condition..

Source: The Trucker, "FMCSA seeks to adopt sleep apnea recommendations as rule guidance," Dorothy Cox, April 19, 2012

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