Sleep Apnea and Commercial Drivers

There’s no question that driver fatigue poses a serious threat to safety on our nation’s roadways. But just how bad is the threat? Well, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the number of fatigue-related crashes reported to the police each year stands at a staggering 100,000, many of which involve professional drivers in heavy commercial vehicles. That means an average of 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary damages each year as a result of fatigue-related accidents.

Truck drivers that have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who fail to adhere to treatment had a preventable crash rate five times higher according to researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Morris, Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and colleagues. They also found that drivers with OSA who were fully compliant with the company-mandated treatment had a crash rate no different than that of the control group.

It is well-known that sleeping less than seven hours a night can have a negative impact on health. With the COVID-19 epidemic, truck drivers are working longer hours and have increased stress levels. Now more than ever, getting an adequate amount of sleep is important to maintain overall health, especially if a driver has been diagnosed with OSA.

Spread awareness about the risks associated with commercial driving during COVID-19. It’s important that we all do our part to help this important community during this difficult time.