NTSB Recommends Mandatory Screening and Treatment for Obstructive Sleep Apnea for Truck Drivers

6 Jan 2021

NTSB is recommending a mandatory Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) screening and treatment for highway and rail workers in safety-sensitive positions. And, includes the recommendation that FMCSA implement a program identifying truckers with OSA as well as making the OSA screening recommendations by FMCSA Medical Review Board easily accessible to medical examiners and asking examiners to use these recommendations as a guide when assessing the OSA risk.

Undiagnosed and untreated OSA remains fatal on the railways and roads and causes too many accidents that could be prevented.

OSA is a type of condition where people’s airways are obstructed while they sleep. Usually this results in:

  • Loud snoring
  • Interruptions in breathing that last a few seconds at a time
  • Hypoxia at night
  • Non-restful sleep

They’re often totally unaware of this condition. Those with this condition might fall asleep in a matter of minutes in a monotonous or quiet environment and experience extreme daytime sleepiness.

You can have a sleep disorder and not even know it.

OSA is more common than a lot of individuals think. Research recently has found between 6% and 17% of adults have OSA (moderate to severe) and it’s especially common in:

  • Older people
  • Males
  • People who are overweight

When OSA is left untreated, it can cause health issues like heart disease and diabetes and it increases drivers’ risk of getting into an accident. But, with screening, and if required, appropriate treatment, the risk can be substantially decreased.

A 2020 FMCSA study conducted on the safety risk factors of commercial drivers found drivers between 34 and 51 years old with treated OSA were substantially less likely to get into carrier-defined preventable accidents than those with untreated OSA.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has evaluated numerous crashes and incidents in all passenger transportation modes that involve operators with sleep conditions. These crashes include crashes where NTSB found commercial drivers with OSA.

A tractor-trailer driver who was traveling on Interstate 40 on July 26, 2000 near Jackson, Tennessee got into an accident with a Tennessee Highway Patrol vehicle that was trailing construction vehicles and killed the state trooper inside.

It then traveled across the median, colliding with a Chevrolet Blazer that was coming from the opposite direction, severely injuring the Blazer’s driver. It was found the driver of the tractor trailer had received an OSA diagnosis and had undergone OSA surgery.

Crashes and incidents in other transportation modes have emphasized the extreme importance of effective OSA screening and treatment among transportation operators. GPS fleet tracking can also provide alerts for hard braking and speeding, both which could be driver behavior indications that could be more prone to accidents.




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