How Sleep Apnea Impacts the Commercial Trucking Industry

According to the FMCSA, it is estimated that sleep apnea affects 28% of all commercial drivers (approximately 1.8 million drivers).

Untreated, sleep apnea contributes to hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease – conditions that represent three of the most costly health expenditures among commercial drivers.

Poor sleep quality from untreated sleep apnea can also lead to excessive sleepiness and irritability. This inattentiveness causes drivers to be at major risk of a motor vehicle accident.

In fact, studies have shown that drivers with untreated sleep apnea are two to seven times more likely to have an accident than drivers without sleep apnea – potentially causing immeasurable loss of life and permanent injury. Effective treatment returns a sleep apnea driver’s risk for a traffic accident to normal.

The Bottom Line

Along with the astonishing health and safety risks, there are significant industry wide financial implications as well. For example, the FMCSA estimated that in 1999 the average cost of a single fatal truck crash was $3.54 million.

Because sleep apnea is so prevalent among commercial drivers, there are efforts in Washington to reduce certain risks associated with the disorder. The FMCSA is planning future regulations on driver health, hoping to curtail the number of related highway accidents.

But despite the fact that there is no federal mandate yet, several long-haul truckload carriers are taking the initiative. They are reducing their risk of large-truck accidents by screening their drivers for sleep apnea and overseeing the treatment of those who have been diagnosed.

And they are already seeing the results – by working with PPD, they are experiencing lower employee healthcare costs, lower liability premiums, and fewer accidents for drivers treated for sleep apnea. Above all, they are perhaps saving more lives among all U.S. highway travelers.