Report: Regulators considering sleep apnea screening for truckers

In an effort to reduce the number of fatigue-related trucking accidents, the DOT and FMCSA have suggested mandatory sleep apnea screening.

Unfortunately, motor vehicle accidents involving large commercial vehicles are common on the roads throughout New Jersey, and across the U.S. Such collisions frequently result in serious injuries or death for those involved. There are numerous factors that may contribute to trucking crashes, including driver fatigue due to sleep disorders. In an effort to reduce the number of such wrecks, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration are taking steps to implement mandatory sleep apnea screening for truckers.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that disrupts people's breathing while they are sleeping. The breathing of those who suffer from this condition may be paused as many as 400 times throughout the night and may be stopped for up to 10 seconds each time. For many, this results in sleep disturbances.

How does sleep apnea affect drivers?

Sleep apnea does not only affect people while they are sleeping, it also impacts them while they are awake. According to the FMCSA, left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea may cause people to have trouble focusing their eyes, reacting quickly and staying awake. Along with the other symptoms and effects associated with this condition, these impairments may affect people's performance and alertness, which may increase their risk of being involved in a car or truck accident.

Proposed mandatory screening

Recently, the Department of Transportation and the FMCSA recommended a new rule that would require commercial truck operators and bus drivers to undergo mandatory screening for obstructive sleep apnea. The Federal Railroad Administration is also involved, recommending that all railroad workers receive the same testing. Commercial vehicle drivers, bus drivers and train operators would also be required to receive treatment if they are diagnosed with sleep apnea. Currently, the proposed rule is in the public comment gathering phase.

According to Fox News, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that drowsiness-related accidents cause 6,400 deaths and 109,000 injuries each year. The aim of the proposed rule is to promote the wellbeing of truck drivers, while also increasing the safety of other drivers, passengers, pedestrians and bystanders. Supporters of the mandatory screening believe this step may cut down on the number of fatigued truckers on the roads, and thus, reduce the number of drowsy driving crashes involving commercial drivers.

Working with a lawyer

When people in New Jersey are involved in trucking collisions, they may suffer serious injuries for which they need extensive medical treatment. Consequently, they may incur undue medical bills and lose income during their recoveries. In some circumstances, however, the trucking company or trucker may be held financial responsible. Therefore, it may be helpful for those who have been injured in such wrecks to seek legal guidance. An attorney may explain their rights and help them determine the best course of action given their situation.