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Future trucking rules may try to prevent crashes from sleep apnea

Many people around Chicago may have heard of sleep apnea or may know someone with the condition. Sleep apnea causes intermittent breaks in a person's sleep, often preventing a full night's rest. According to doctors, those who suffer from sleep apnea may experience tiredness during the day, which can affect job performance.

And for those whose jobs require alertness in order to preserve safety, such as truck drivers, sleep apnea can be dangerous. One doctor at Harvard Medical School stated that sleep apnea sufferers are 242 percent more likely to get into an accident. To mitigate the potential effect of sleep apnea on truck crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is evaluating the suggestions of two committees with an eye to eventually creating trucking regulations concerning sleep apnea.

At the moment, truck drivers do not have to be tested for sleep apnea. But the FMCSA's Medical Review Board, one of the two advisory groups, believes that all drivers whose body mass index is at least 35 should be evaluated to determine if they have the condition. The groups also suggested that drivers be taken off the road and tested for sleep apnea if they have a truck accident that results from tiredness.

Trucking companies have an obligation to ensure the safe operation of their vehicles. Truck drivers are responsible for large vehicles whose weight, including freight, can reach into the tens of thousands of pounds. Other motorists may be at risk if a driver fatigued from sleep apnea is behind the wheel. Doctors on the Medical Review Board cautioned that drivers with sleep apnea may be more prone to distraction while being slower to react to changing conditions on the road.

Source: Truckinginfo.com, "FMCSA Proposes Guidance for Sleep Apnea," Oliver B. Patton, April 20, 2012.

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