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Trucker Sleep-Apnea Study Launched by ATRI

April 14, 2016

By David Cullen

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CPAP machine for treating sleep apnea Image: Safety First Sleep Solutions
CPAP machine for treating sleep apnea Image: Safety First Sleep Solutions

The American Transportation Research Institute on April 15 launched an online survey of truck drivers on issues related to sleep apnea. 

ATRI said the survey results will be combined with other sleep apnea and driver fatigue research and then analyzed by several leading sleep apnea experts. 

The survey aims to query drivers “on their perspectives, personal experiences, and knowledge of sleep apnea,” including soliciting information on apnea assessments and treatments that drivers may have received and the “perceived effectiveness” of those treatments. 

The research group is encouraging all commercial drivers, including those with no personal experience with apnea diagnoses, to participate in the confidential survey.

The survey was first distributed at the Mid-America Trucking Show, in late March, where over 100 drivers participated in the research. The online version of the survey at ATRI's website will be available through mid-May.

"This is the first large-scale data collection effort that seeks to find out what professional drivers know about sleep apnea and for those who have been through a sleep test, to better understand what the impacts, especially costs, of testing and treatment are on drivers,” said Bob Stanton, a professional driver who was diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2002 and is Co-Coordinator of Truckers for a Cause, a patient support groups for drivers with sleep apnea. “I strongly encourage my fellow drivers to take a few minutes to complete ATRI's confidential online survey," he added.

Tom Weakley, Director of Operations for the OOIDA Foundation and a member of ATRI's Research Advisory Committee, said the costs associated with apnea screening are “a big concern for our members.” He said the ATRI survey is “an opportunity to expand the existing data on this very critical issue.”

ATRI’s research, titled "Understanding the Impacts of Sleep Apnea on Commercial Drivers," was selected by the group’s Research Advisory Committee as one of its top priorities for 2016. ATRI is the nonprofit research arm of the American Trucking Associations Federation. 

Last month it was revealed in a study co-authored by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that drivers with sleep apnea have a five times greater risk of a severe crash when they do not adhere to a mandated treatment program.

Also in March, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration jointly announced that the agencies are seeking public comment during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating CMV drivers and rail workers for obstructive sleep apnea.

The agencies said their Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a.k.a. a “pre-rule,” is “the first step” in considering whether to propose specific requirements around OSA.

The pre-rule (RIN 2126-AB88 and 2130-AC52), titled “Evaluation of Safety Sensitive Personnel for OSA,” specifically seeks “data and information concerning the prevalence of moderate-to-severe obstructive sleep apnea among individuals occupying safety sensitive positions in rail and highway transportation.”

The agencies are also requesting information about the potential economic impact and safety benefits associated with “regulatory actions that would result in transportation workers in these positions, who exhibit multiple risk factors for OSA, undergoing evaluation by a healthcare professional with expertise in sleep disorders, and subsequent treatment.”

Related: How Not to Lose Sleep Over Apnea

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