The American Trucking Assns. (ATA) is co-sponsoring what’s billed as the first-ever national conference on sleep apnea and commercial motor vehicle drivers. To be held May 12th of next year, it will feature presentations and panel discussions geared to providing a common understanding of sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, along with clarifying current and proposed regulations.
“The trucking industry continues to grapple with the tough questions and issues surrounding screening and treatment for sleep apnea,” said Dave Osiecki, ATA vp of safety, security & operations. “This event is a significant step forward and we encourage industry stakeholders to participate.”
Sleep apnea is a major problem in the truck driver community, Dana Voien, president of medical health service provider SleepSafe Drivers, told Fleet Owner. He said sleep apnea affects about 6% to 12% of the adult male population, but 28% to 30% of truck drivers – a factor he ties to the unusually high obesity rate among drivers.
In addition to being a potential safety risk on the highway, drivers with sleep apnea face a long list of increased health risks, he noted, including hypertension, diabetes, memory loss, chronic fatigue, obesity, and a doubling of the chance of heart attack and stroke.
“You know how you feel when you haven’t been able to sleep well for a night or two,” he explained. “People with sleep apnea never get a good night’s sleep. They see a significant improvement [in how they feel] after only one or two nights of treatment.”
When asked why sleep apnea is only now getting so much attention in trucking, Voien pointed to relatively recent improvements in diagnosis and treatment. “Now routine monitoring is really possible,” he said. “That is so important; it changes how treatment can function at the fleet level.”
Officially called “obstructed sleep apnea” (OSA), the condition results in an individual's airway being blocked while sleeping, typically resulting in frequent breathing interruptions lasting from 10 seconds to more than a minute at a time, resulting in loud snoring and non-restorative sleep. The illness afflicts at least 20 million Americans – equal to or more than asthma or diabetes – yet more than 85% remain undiagnosed, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), which is co-hosting the ATA’s sleep apnea conference.
The one-day conference will be held at the Westin Baltimore Washington - BWI in Baltimore, and will be preceded by a reception and keynote address from National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman on May 11, 2010.