Study Backs Obstructive Sleep Apnea Screening for Commercial Truck Drivers
Trucking companies that screen and treat drivers for Obstructive Sleep Apnea can reap big benefits, and not just because such a protocol would reduce the likelihood of fatigue-related truck and 18-wheeler accidents.
According to a new study recently published in the journal Sleep, a regular program of sleep apnea screening could also reduce health insurance costs related to other medical conditions.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Commercial Drivers
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a medical disorder that affects an estimated 22 million Americans, including 1/3 of all non-farm commercial drivers. The condition, which frequently goes undiagnosed, causes sufferers to stop breathing for periods as long as 10 minutes while sleeping, making it impossible to achieve a good night’s rest.
If allowed to go untreated, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to a range of other serious health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and memory lapses.
The disorder is also linked to drowsy driving and increases the risk that a driver will fall asleep at the wheel. In fact, research indicates that commercial truckers suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea have a preventable crash rate five-times higher than non-sufferers.
Undiagnosed Sleep Apnea Implicated in Hundreds of Crashes
According to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been implicated in at least 500 highway or rail crashes, killing 50 people and injuring more than 370 others.
These included a fatal collision involving an 18-wheeler and tour bus near Palm Springs, California that left 13 dead in 2016, as well as well as two New York-area commuter train crashes since 2016 that killed 1 person and injured more than 200 others.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does not require commercial drivers to undergo medical screening for Obstructive Sleep Apnea. While the Obama Administration did finalize such a rule in 2016, the regulations were abandoned shortly after President Trump took office.
For years, the trucking industry has vehemently opposed any mandatory sleep apnea screening regulations as being too expensive and burdensome. Some companies do screen new hires, and may even pay for sleep apnea treatment, but those programs are completely voluntary.
Health Insurance Savings Offset Cost of Mandatory Screening
This latest study involved a single trucking company that has implemented a sleep apnea screening and treatment program, and compared 100 truckers who had already been diagnosed and treated to 100 others suspected of having the condition, but who had not yet been diagnosed.
The study authors determined that screening, diagnosing, and treating sleep apnea saved the company roughly $441 per driver per month in health insurance costs. Over 18 months, the trucking company accrued around $153,000 in total savings, offsetting much of the cost for mandatory screening.
“The individual saving of $441 per-driver per-month due to the effective treatment of this disease is very substantial, and deserves attention from everyone who is concerned about high medical insurance costs,” co-author Steve Burks, a professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota Morris, said in a statement announcing the findings.
Undefeated Truck Accident Lawyers Winning Record-Breaking Verdicts and Settlements in Fatigue-Related Crashes
Our Truck Accident Lawyers have won Record-Breaking Verdicts and Settlements for hundreds of people throughout the United States in connection with fatigue-related bus and truck crashes.
Most recently, for example, we negotiated a $6 million settlement on behalf of several Greyhound Bus passengers who were injured in a rollover crash after their driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Greyhound claimed that a “sudden medical” event had caused the driver to lose consciousness. Our attorneys, however, won the first-ever court-ordered sleep study of a commercial driver in Texas, proving that he actually suffered from undiagnosed Obstructive Sleep Apnea and likely fell asleep at the wheel.
Our record settlement remains the largest involving driver fatigue in Greyhound’s corporate history and was featured by CBS Morning News and other major media outlets throughout the United States.
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