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An Ohio and national concern: sleep apnea in the trucking industry

The interstate highways and state roads splayed across Ohio serve as major arteries for commercial truckers transporting goods both within and beyond the state. Numerous studies and statistics indicate that the volume of Ohio truck traffic is greater than that of many other states.

And, thus, so is the constant potential for, and too-often reality of, serious truck accidents.

The central underlying factor contributing to many crashes is driver fatigue. We noted in a previous blog post, for example (June 17), several fatal accidents occurring earlier this spring that focused an especially bright spotlight on the problem. In one of those, a bus accident, the driver crashed the vehicle while asleep at the wheel, killing four and injuring scores of additional passengers.

More recently, much attention is being devoted to the role that sleep apnea may be having in the trucking industry. There is presently no federal law that requires a commercial trucker to be tested for apnea, but the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) stands behind the idea.

So, too, does the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which estimates that nearly 30 percent of commercial truckers suffer from the condition. The impact of sleep apnea on a driver’s performance has been similarly compared in a study setting to that of a trucker who is operating a rig while legally drunk.

The NTSB recommends stronger national standards for identifying and treating sleep apnea in the commercial transportation industry. Those include creation of a program that enables companies to identify and test high-risk drivers, treat those who have apnea, and provide industry-wide education and guidance to employers and rig operators concerning the problem.

Related Resource: Layover, “Are trucking companies allowing drivers with sleep apnea on the road?” Oct. 4, 2011