Sleep apnea is a major issue in the trucking industry. In Georgia, in recent years numerous fatal accidents have been caused by drowsy truckers.
In past years, little was known about sleep apnea and it was often undiagnosed. However, according to the American Association for Respiratory Care, this condition affects up to 18 million Americans.
The Association estimates that out of those 18 million people, 10 million undiagnosed Americans suffer from the condition.
Not only is sleep apnea linked to serious conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure, but it can lead drivers to fall asleep at the wheel. If you are driving an 80,000 pound truck, that’s a major issue.
Some studies suggest truckers suffer a higher rate of sleep apnea than other members of the population.
Truck drivers are expected to face more screening over sleep apnea from trucking companies after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in April.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided not to hear a case from a driver who claimed a carrier violated his rights by requiring him to be tested, reported Trucks.com.
Robert Parker appealed a lower court decision that Crete Carrier Corp. did not violate his rights under the American with Disabilities Act, or ADA, by requiring sleep apnea testing because he had a body mass index, or BMI, of 35 or higher.
He gave the company a note from his personal doctor saying testing was not necessary. But Parker was fired after he refused to take the test.
More carriers may choose to test drivers for sleep apnea now that the fear of lawsuits has been lifted.
However, hopes that drivers might face greater protection from truckers with sleep apnea appeared to be dashed over the summer when the Department of Transportation withdrew rules being drawn up over sleep apnea.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration withdrew proposed criteria and processes for implementing sleep apnea screening requirements for truck operators according to a notice issued on Aug. 4. The notice stated:
“The agencies have determined not to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking at this time and believe that current safety programs and FRA’s rulemaking addressing fatigue risk management are the appropriate avenues to address OSA (obstructive sleep apnea).”
The rule would have given clearer advice to medical examiners, drivers and trucking companies about the issue.
It would also have set up treatment protocol, reported Overdrive. At present, medical examiners use a disparate set of screening protocols to determine apnea test referrals.
It’s a policy that has led to confusion across the industry. Some drivers believe they have been subjected to unnecessary referrals that have allowed device manufacturers and doctors to cash in.
The policy has caused confusion industry-wide, in some cases bringing charges of unwarranted referrals from drivers, who see apnea testing companies, treatment device manufacturers and doctors cashing in on a gray area in regulation.
In recent months, the trucking industry has secured a number of victories to prevent new regulations intended to tackle tiredness in the industry from being imposed.
It’s a trend that’s bad news for other drivers, passengers and the truckers themselves. If you or a loved one has been injured by a tired trucker call our Atlanta area trucking accident lawyers at (404) 913-1529.