“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 OverdriveOnline.com . 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”. OverdriveOnlin.com 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 OverdriveOnline.com:
“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
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.