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Trucking Safety Matters

Sleep Apnea Awareness – What Every Trucker Should Know

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that affects more trucking professionals than you might think. In fact, According to a recent study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), nearly 30% of commercial truck drivers experience mild to severe sleep apnea. Despite how common this condition is in the trucking industry, it comes with significant safety ramifications—minimizing drivers’ ability to focus on the road and increasing their likelihood of being involved in a crash.

In order to make our highways safer, it’s important for truckers to understand this condition and know how to respond to an onset of symptoms. The following provides guidance as to what sleep apnea is, how this condition can impact your driving capabilities and steps that you should take following a sleep apnea diagnosis.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes short pauses in breathing during sleep. Such pauses typically last for at least 10 seconds at a time and can happen up to 400 times each night. If left untreated, this condition can be life-threatening.

Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include the following:

  • Frequent and loud snoring
  • Recurring nighttime urination
  • Morning nausea and headaches
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Excessive daytime fatigue
  • Increased irritability or sadness
  • Difficulties with memory and concentration

Although sleep apnea can affect a wide range of individuals, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of developing it. This includes having a family history of the condition, being over the age of 40, smoking, consuming alcohol, having a small upper airway and being overweight.

How Sleep Apnea Impacts Your Driving

If left untreated, sleep apnea can impact your ability to stay awake, alert and focused during the day—all of which could hinder your driving performance. What’s more, several studies have found that individuals with untreated sleep apnea have an elevated risk of being involved in a fatigue-related crash. In other words, ignoring the signs of sleep apnea can threaten the safety of both you and others on the road.

What to Do if You Have Sleep Apnea

If you start experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, reach out to your doctor right away. From there, your doctor may send you to a sleep center for testing. If a sleep apnea diagnosis is confirmed, you may receive a variety of treatment options—the most common being the use of a breathing assistance device at night and (if applicable) lifestyle changes (e.g., physical exercises and dietary restrictions to promote weight loss).

Unfortunately, this diagnosis may temporarily restrict you from being able to drive professionally. According to the FMCSA, individuals with a medical history or clinical diagnosis of any condition that could interfere with their ability to drive safely are not medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

However, the FMCSA confirms that once an individual’s clinical diagnosis has been successfully treated, they can regain their “medically qualified to drive” status. This means that you will need to work with your doctor, the medical examiner responsible for determining your physical fitness to drive and your supervisor to establish an effective treatment plan for your sleep apnea. Keep in mind that additional state and local regulations may apply to your situation based on the location of your driving operations.

Ask For Help

If you have concerns about sleep apnea, talk to your doctor promptly. He or she should be able to answer all your questions. To learn more about trucking safety, talk to the risk management specialists at VTC Insurance group. To contact a VTC agent near you. Call 248.828.3377 or visit vtcins.com.

The content within this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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