Recently, a plan was constructed by the government to place a requirement for prospective drivers of semi trucks to be screened for sleep apnea every so often to ensure they do not fall asleep at the wheel. This has sparked an uproar of negative reactions from truckers and many transportation corporations. It has been called “stupid” and “unnecessary” by truckers, and corporations that hire them are angry because they do not want to pay for sleep apnea screenings. Because individuals who suffer from sleep apnea are seven times more likely to crash a car due to fatigue, this plan would help save many lives. Individuals with sleep apnea do not breathe in a natural way at night, so they sleep a few minutes at a time instead of falling into REM sleep like much of the population. There are two different types of sleep apnea. CPA, or central sleep apnea, is when the brain cannot signal breath to the muscles. OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea, is when airways are partially blocked by the tissue near the back of the throat. Many truck drivers are men in their late 40s to early 50s, which is coincidentally the highest at risk demographic for sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea and Truck Drivers
Many truckers are not screened for sleep apnea and when given a mandatory rest period so that they can regain their energy, do not sleep due to this condition. Worse, they could even become more tired due to not being able to sleep, and after the rest period is over they could get back on the road with even more fatigue. Laws restrict drivers to only driving 11 hour days and 70 hours overall each week, as a trucking accident lawyer relies on. However, current laws do close to nothing to make sure that truck drivers are actually sleeping or resting during their mandatory rest periods. Even a case of mild sleep apnea can make a truck driver feel as if they only took a short nap, when in fact they slept 8 full hours. A doctor mandated physical is a part of the sleep apnea discovery process. Unfortunately, if the doctor is negligent and does not properly diagnose the sleep apnea or prescribe the proper medication for the specific individual, the company that employs the truck driver may become legally responsible for an accident if sleep apnea screening is discovered to be the cause.