Sleep Apnea Trucking Regulations

 “The central question in FMCSA’s possible regulation of the condition will be whether individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk for a motor vehicle crash compared with those who do not suffer from it. When it comes time to impose regulations, cautioned Rob Abbott of the American Trucking Associations, questions of data quality are likely to loom large.”

This possibility of sleep apnea trucking regulations was recently reported on .  The report also discussed how the Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) submcommttee had justified their ascertion of a link between OSA and an increased risk of accidents “largely by extrapolating data from studies on noncommercial drivers” although one study had used commercial drivers.  These studies had apparently “shown a range of increased risk”. went to to report further comment from Rob Abbott of the American Trucking Associations that “The causal relationship has not been studied.”

“But experts from the Medical Review Board found the extrapolation to be a valid one since, as noted by Dr. Indira Gurubhagavatula of the Veteran’s Administration’s medical center, apnea is “an extremely treatable disorder and extremely prevalent among commercial drivers.” She cited obesity statistics that suggested well more than half of male adult commercial drivers were overweight if not obese, a well-known apnea risk factor. She added that a study found that “people with severe apnea were impaired similar to the effect of an alcohol level of 0.05.”

So if sleep apnea trucking regulations came into force, what would they entail?  According to the report on

“The recommendations issued Feb. 6 would allow a 60-day conditional certification to be issued for drivers screened for testing due only to BMI. If determined to have apnea, those drivers would need to return to their examiner with proof of one week’s worth of successful treatment before being issued a 90-day certification pending further evaluation of treatment compliance. (As long as they are being treated, those drivers would get no longer than a one-year medical certification.)”

While these sleep apnea trucking regulationsmay sound draconian, surely they sound no more draconian than the regulations requiring seatbelt wearing or

Driver wearing seatbelt giving the thumbs-up sign

Seatbelts are now accepted safety requirments on the road

restricitng alchohol blood limits when they first were muted?  It would be brave person who would now ascert that seatbelts don’t need to be worn and that it’s safe to drive with a belly full of beer. 

Proposed regulations for sleep apnea have come about because developed nations have never before been in the position of having such a high proportion of overweight people in the population.  If the average person finds it so hard to loose weight (weight loss may help to reduce sleep apnea episodes) then other means such as sleep apnea trucking regulations may be needed to help keep our truckers alive.


2 Responses to “Sleep Apnea Trucking Regulations”

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  1. Bob Stanton says:

    The devil is in the details on the reccomendations from the joint meetings between the MCSAC (Motor Carrier Safety Advisary Committee) and the MRB (Medical Review Board).

    One example will be the use of home sleep tests (HST or ambulatory testing) versus in lab polysonography (PSG). PSG can cost upwards of $ 2,000 while more realistic costs come in around $ 1,300. HST can be done for as little as $ 400.

    But some home sleep tests are so easy to falsify that they will be useless for a driver hoping for a negative result ( I don’t have sleep apnea). You may end up paying for a home study and needing to get an in lab PSG anyway.

    I cringe every time I see the comparison made between having untreated sleep apnea and blood alcohol. The study that found this did NOT study persons with untreated sleep apnea. The study simulated sleep apnea by not letting the test subjects sleep at all.

    A better description of the results would have been… If you don’t let graduate studnent sleep for more than 3 days they will probably drive like they were drunk.

    I have sleep apnea and drove truck for more than 9 years under current and effective treatment.

    Dig into the topic a little. Look at the comments submitted to the docket for the MCSAC-MRB meeting in Feb.

  2. Dee Wilson says:

    Hi Bob, Thanks for your thoughtful comments to my post on sleep apnea trucking regulations.

    Yes, things do become problematic when studies appear not to have been done in a proper fashion. Plus there will always be the risk of unscrupulous business people taking advantage of others who are in a bind because of regulations.

    One way to get around this is for people to spread the word when they know they’ve ‘been had’ by unscrupulous businesses when a situation occurs.

    I’ve been diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea for the last 6 months now and know what a huge difference it has made in my life overall but particularly in relation to my driving where I was always fighting tiredness.

    Although not a truck driver, my wonderful son-in-law and his brother and father are trick drivers and heavy machinery operators. So I become a bit passionate about spreading the word on sleep apnea trucking regulations.


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