Aeroflow Industrial recently brought to our attention that a silent killer is lurking on our roads, creeping up on the unsuspecting while they sleep, or at least while they try to. It’s sleep apnea, a condition affecting over 18 million adults across the country.
Sleep apnea often goes unnoticed because it affects you when you sleep. It prevents you from getting the rest you need, so you wake up feeling exhausted. This is especially dangerous for truck drivers because driving tired is the equivalent of driving drunk.
However, truckers may be happy to know that they will face fewer regulations because FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) officially withdrew their proposed sleep apnea screening rule.
The Proposed Sleep Apnea Rule
Currently, medical examiners have the discretion to decide which drivers need to be referred for sleep apnea testing because no rules or regulations are put in place. FMCSA would have given examiners clarity and guidelines to follow.
For example, if you had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 40 or higher you would be referred for sleep apnea testing. You would also be referred for testing if you had a BMI or 33 or higher and met other qualifications like having a collar size greater than 17 inches or having high blood pressure. The total list of qualifications can be viewed here.
Sleep apnea is a serious repository condition that can affect a driver’s abilities to safely operate their vehicle, that’s why sleep apnea screening will most likely become more prevalent in the transportation industry.
Recently in April, former driver Robert J. Parker filed a lawsuit against Crete Carrier Corp, one of the largest based privately-owned trucking companies, claiming that their sleep apnea requirement was unlawful.
The supreme court ruled in Crete’s favor, saying they did not act improperly when they required all drivers with a BMI of 35 or higher to be screened for sleep apnea and to undergo treatment. When Robert refused to be screened he was not given more work.
A Little About Sleep Apnea
Aeroflow believes that treating sleep apnea is an important safety measure that will save lives and money. Truckers who undergo treatment often have an improved quality of life. Plus, for every $1 spent on sleep apnea testing $3.49 is saved on collision damage costs. One simple test could improve trucker health, safety, and save the U.S. economy about $150 billion.
Sleep apnea is actually a disorder that causes a person’s breathing to become shallow or to stop completely while they sleep. As a result, their brain and body don’t get enough oxygen. If left untreated conditions like diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and more could occur.
You don’t have to be overweight to have sleep apnea. You could have an obstruction in your airways, your neck could be too thin for proper air passage, your tonsils could be large enough to block air flow, and more.
Usually, you don’t know if you have sleep apnea unless you record yourself sleeping or your significant other notices that you snore loudly, gasp, or choke in your sleep. That’s why screening for it is so important. Other symptoms include depression, headaches when you wake up, insomnia, and more.
The test is easy, you go to sleep while being hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung, and brain activity. You can also refer to a sleep apnea questionnaire to assess your risk. Aeroflow will actually review your completed questionnaire and assess your sleep apnea risk. Complete the questionnaire here.
If you have sleep apnea then may be prescribed a CPAP machine or oral breathing device to help you get the oxygen you need. In some cases, you may be asked to lose weight, require surgery, or be put on certain medications.
Get The Rest You Need
If you get tired be sure to stop to get the rest that you need. Don’t go past your limits. If you regularly wake up feeling fatigued, confused, or with headaches then you may want to consider getting screened for sleep apnea. Also, please share your thoughts about carriers requiring sleep apnea screenings in the comment section below.
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