Odds are that if you are driving on an interstate highway, more than 25% of the tractor-trailers you see will be operated by a fatigued truck driver. This is because approximately 3 million U.S. truck drivers have what is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA is characterized by sleep-disordered breathing that results in daytime sleepiness, sleep attacks, micro-sleeps, psychomotor deficits, and disrupted nighttime sleep. OSA dramatically increases a truck driver’s risk of being involved in a fatal truck accident. Unfortunately, many truck companies continue to deny that many of their drivers suffer from OSA and refuse to conduct company sponsored screening for the disorder. The problem of fatigued truck drivers has been a deadly problem for years.
In 2008, the medical advisory panel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – the government agency that regulates the truck industry – recommended that companies screen their drivers for OSA. Very few truck companies have done anything to identify which of their drivers have OSA. One exception, is Schneider National Trucking.
Don Osterberg is the Vice-president of Safety at Schneider. He stated, “[s]o now we’re three and a half years later and the DOT has taken no action.” The lack of a federal regulation did not stop Schneider from taking responsibility for its drivers. Schneider screened all of its more than 2000 truck drivers. They discovered that a very significant percentage suffered from OSA. The great thing about this disease is “how effectively it can be treated,” Osterberg said. Schneider’s program is not perfect, but at least they have taken a huge step in the right direction. More screening and regular monitoring is needed throughout the trucking industry.