Zehl & Associates is a Houston-based firm of personal injury lawyers that has recently shed light on sleep apnea in the fleet industry. The article emphasizes the expectations and obligations placed on trucking companies by providing several examples of sleep apnea in commercial drivers that resulted in an accident.
It should come as no surprise that truck drivers face many risks as they drive across the country day in and day out. Bad drivers, weather conditions, vehicle breakdowns and long hours behind the wheel all pose a threat to truckers, but one risk that is generally overlooked yet extremely dangerous is sleep apnea. This medical condition has gained significant attention over the past few years thanks to several high-profile accidents that resulted from a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
The Impact of Sleep Apnea on Driver Safety
The health and safety of your drivers should be taken very seriously, as the Department of Tranportation has now enstated sleep apnea regulations for 2016.
But sleep apnea is not to be confused with simply being tired or not getting enough sleep. Laws and regulations are already in place to ensure that truck drivers get the necessary amount of sleep, and reputable trucking companies enforce these rules in the strictest sense.
According to the Zehl & Associates article, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly throughout the night due to upper airway constriction. The problem for sufferers of sleep apnea is that, while they may be getting what appears to be an acceptable number of hours of sleep, the quality of that rest is not sufficient to keep them alert when behind the wheel for hours at a time. Their sleeping patterns will be broken and they will more likely be less focused and aware, which presents a high risk of nodding off at the wheel.
2016 DOT rules allow for testing drivers for sleep apnea at the advice of a medical examiner, using an overnight test that monitors the subject’s sleeping patterns and detects if there are occurrences of OSA. Armed with these results, drivers and company owners can make the most informed decisions in the name of the safety of the driver and general public.
Our years of experience in the commercial trucking industry has instilled the utmost respect for the serious and potentially dangerous career of professional truck driving. If you want to be sure you’re getting a restful night’s sleep, take a moment and discuss sleep apnea testing with your company and doctor before hitting the road again for your next long haul.
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