The Sleep Apnea Witch Hunt

by Tanya Bons

Featured Author Tanya Bons

Tanya Bons has managed and coordinated sales, advertising, and administrative forces in the truck driving school industry for almost eight years. Tanya and her husband Ken are the co-founders and co-owners of Spirit CDL Training in Belvidere, IL. Spirit CDL Training Corporation became an official Secretary of State certified truck driving school in April of 2011.

Truckers that have a Body Mass Index of 35 or more are going to be hunted down in the name of the 2012 Sleep Apnea witch hunt. If you are a male trucker with a BMI of 35 or more, are over 45 years of age, snore, have high blood pressure and are Hispanic or African-American sleep with one eye open, they might already be at your bedroom door trying to get in.

Who Is Being Targeted For Sleep Apnea?

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board have declared war on drivers with a BMI of 35 or more, even though they admit it might be a BMI of 30 or maybe even 40, that plays a role in sleep apnea. To give an example of BMI, if you are 5' 10" and weigh 240 pounds, you have a BMI of 35. If you are 5' 5" and weigh 210 you have a BMI of 35.

There are no true statistics to provide this hunt with facts. The National Institutes of Health "estimates" that 18 million people, about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 60, have sleep apnea. If 18 million sounds high, consider that 30 million have insomnia.

The FMCSA combined their data with the data from the UPenn sleep study in an attempt to confirm that sleep apnea increased truck driving accidents. The results - sleep apnea did not show a statistical increase in motor vehicle accidents. The data did show however that younger, inexperienced commercial drivers are at an increased risk of causing commercial motor vehicle accidents.

The Stanford University Medical School also did a study. They reviewed forty-two accidents by truck drivers and concluded that only seven of the accidents were "fatigue" related. They also reported that more than half of the accidents had occurred while the truck driver was in a personal vehicle, not a commercial vehicle. The Stanford results also found that obese truck drivers cause more accidents than non-obese drivers, and obese drivers are more tired than non-obese drivers. Maybe we should be watching the driver's donut consumption rather than their sleeping habits.

Who Is Behind The Push For Sleep Apnea Testing?

One of the strong backers of the Sleep Apnea witch-hunt is Mrs. Wanda Lindsay. Mrs. Lindsay just received a $3.25 million dollar settlement for her husband's untimely death, which occurred while they were stopped in traffic. A truck driver, who states that he had turned his head to see a wreck on a service road, plowed into the back of the Lindsay car doing 65 mph or more killing John Lindsay.

The truck driver was possibly diagnosed with severe sleep apnea; there is some confusion as to when he was diagnosed and an interesting rumor that states he had been turned down by thirty trucking companies due to his sleep apnea.

This accident obviously had horrific effects but the truck driver states that he was awake and had just glanced away for a moment. He hadn't realized that the traffic had come to an abrupt stop. Though he was without a doubt at fault, can we say that sleep apnea was at fault for his inability to stop?

Is This All About The Money?

The money associated with sleep apnea is at the very forefront of this witch-hunt; $200 for a consultation, $1,000 or more for a sleep study, $3,500 follow-up fees, $500 to $4,000 for CPAP devices, $2,500 to $3,000 for sleep apnea dental devices and up to $50,000 for surgery. The CPAP market raked in $2.3 billion globally in 2010 and 60% of that was in U.S. dollars.

Yes I believe truck drivers do lack sleep, more than non-commercial drivers, but I don't think that we should be discriminating against the "bigger boys" and pulling them off the road for weeks at a time (it can take up to two weeks to get results for sleep study tests) without something more substantial to back the hunt. And with actual figures that say more accidents happen in non-commercial vehicles, shouldn't we focus on the four-wheeling public rather than truck drivers?

Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea And Causes of Concern

There are a number of symptoms and triggers associated with sleep apnea that you should be aware of:

  • A Body Mass Index above 30, 35 or 40 (no exact BMI has been proven to be the magic number)
  • Loud snoring (snoring itself does not automatically qualify you)
  • Interruption of breathing while sleeping (five or more times during one sleeping cycle)
  • Feeling tired during the day
  • Consuming caffeine to keep alert
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure (although this could be more related to obesity than sleep apnea)
  • Diabetes (although this could be more related to obesity than sleep apnea)
  • Being male (although females can also have sleep apnea)
  • Being African-American or Hispanic
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Being between 40 and 60 years of age (although children can also be effected and those over 60 see a drop in sleep apnea cases)

Truckers need to be aware of the facts of sleep apnea to protect themselves and their job. And If you do have concerns about having sleep apnea, you shouldn't lose sleep over it, you should get tested.

Drive safe, Tanya Bons

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • CSA:

    Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

    The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

    FMCSA:

    Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

    The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

    What Does The FMCSA Do?

    • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
    • Data and Analysis
    • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
    • Research and Technology
    • Safety Assistance
    • Support and Information Sharing

    Sleep Apnea:

    A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

    In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

    It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

    BMI:

    Body mass index (BMI)

    BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

    • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
    • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

    It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

    Body Mass Index:

    Body mass index (BMI)

    BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

    • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
    • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

    It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

    CPAP:

    Constant Positive Airway Pressure

    CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

    Dm:

    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

    Fm:

    Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

    The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

    DAC:

    Drive-A-Check Report

    A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

    It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

    Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

Featured Author Tanya Bons

Tanya Bons has managed and coordinated sales, advertising, and administrative forces in the truck driving school industry for almost eight years. Tanya and her husband Ken are the co-founders and co-owners of Spirit CDL Training in Belvidere, IL. Spirit CDL Training Corporation became an official Secretary of State certified truck driving school in April of 2011.

by Brett Aquila

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