The backbone of our economic infrastructure is based on open access to readily available goods. To keep this system working properly, we rely upon an extensive network of freight transportation, including the trucking industry. In fact, trucking accounts for 70 percent of all freight transported annually in the U.S., $671 billion worth of manufactured and retail goods. Truckers work hard to stay on schedule, sometimes to the detriment of their health.
Drowsy driving is a constant danger for truck drivers. The long hours and monotonous routes lend themselves to fatigue. Coupled with a lack of exercise and unhealthy truck stop dining, the risk for both obesity and sleep-related health risks is high.
Chief amongst those risks is sleep disordered breathing, or sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is closely related to obesity and its symptoms include snoring, hypertension, and excessive daytime sleepiness. It also increases risks for heart attack, stroke, and insulin resistance. Many truck drivers may not know they have the condition. In fact, in a recent Australian research study of 517 commercial vehicle drivers, only 4% believed they had sleep apnea. However, when the group was tested 41% were positive for the condition.
One barrier in treating truckers for sleep disorders is the unfortunate perpetuation of the myth that getting a diagnosis of sleep apnea will lead to loss of a driver’s commercial license. Over the past decade, this groundless rumor has spread through the trucking industry as companies have begun to include sleep screenings in annual physicals. Some drivers discourage peers from revealing information to their doctors about their sleep habits and level of fatigue. This is a disturbing trend as truckers who may truly need treatment for sleep disorders are afraid of being honest with their physician based on the unfounded risk of losing their jobs. “We’re not in the business of pulling people’s licenses or jeopardizing their livelihood,” says Dr Daniel Root, Medical Director at Oregon Sleep Associates, “We’re here to provide commercial drivers with access to proper screening and treatment options that keep them safe and alert on the roads.”
Despite government regulations to limit the amount of hours spent behind the wheel, many truck drivers are pushed to work long hours and meet deadlines. Also, late-night shift work is common for drivers and can lead to excessive fatigue. When one considers that a vehicle moving at 55 mph travels almost 81 feet per second, it is evident that even a momentary lapse in attention or quick nod-off can result in fatal consequences. It is very important to pull over and rest if you feel fatigued when driving. If this happens frequently or if you have other symptoms of a sleep disorder such as snoring or apnea, be honest with your physician about your fatigue or seek treatment directly at Oregon Sleep Associates.