Drowsy driving can be almost as dangerous as getting behind the wheel after too many cocktails. While most commercial truck drivers are professionals who would never drink on the job, they can easily overlook factors that put them at increased risk of a drowsy driving accident.
Sleep apnea is a highly prevalent problem in the trucking industry. When this pervasive sleep disorder goes undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to a big rig truck accident — and injuries to other motorists or pedestrians.
Almost One Out Of Three Truckers Suffers From Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. It may be serious, even life-threatening — but it often goes undiagnosed and unrecognized.
Sleep apnea is a major contributor to daytime drowsiness, which can be deadly on the road. Conservative government estimates place the annual number of police-reported crashes that are the direct result of driver fatigue at 100,000.
Among commercial truck drivers, sleep apnea is a particularly acute threat. For one thing, commercial drivers are responsible for the safe operation of large, multi-ton vehicles; when truck drivers are involved in a crash, the potential for injuries or deaths is significantly amplified when compared to an accident involving only passenger vehicles. Equally scary is that fact that commercial vehicle drivers suffer from sleep apnea at a rate that far outpaces the American average.
An estimated 18 million Americans, or just shy of six percent of the U.S. population, suffer from sleep apnea. However, a study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that 28 percent, nearly one-third, of commercial drivers have some degree of sleep apnea.
Why the disparity? It may have something to do with two of the greatest risk factors for sleep apnea: being overweight and having short sleep duration (six hours or less per night). Obesity is common in the trucking profession — little surprise considering the sedentary nature of the work and the obstacles trucking presents in terms of healthy eating — and long hours, high-stress, and being away from home do not typically make for peaceful, indulgent sleep. Fortunately, sleep apnea is a highly treatable condition. All it takes to help make roads safer for everyone is for truck drivers and their employers to recognize, report and address the issue.