Last month, I blogged about the NTSB recommendation for mandatory sleep apnea screenings for commercial truckers, to reduce the risk of fatigue-related accidents. I expressed my hope that the FMCSA would act on the recommendation, and mandate sleep apnea screenings for bus and truck drivers. While we wait for the FMCSA to act (and judging by the agency's speed in responding to NTSB recommendations in the past, I would say it's going to be a long wait) it's encouraging to note that a Georgia-based sleep therapy services provider and its study partners have announced positive results from a clinical trial on treatment of truckers suffering from sleep apnea.
The trial was conducted by SleepSafe Drivers Inc., a company that provides sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment programs for commercial fleets, as part of a nationwide contract with a transportation company. The trial aims to document the kind of savings possible from reduced medical costs associated with early diagnosis as well as reduced accident-related expenses. According to representatives of SleepSafe Drivers' clinical partner, Atlanta-based Fusion Sleep, the trial's goal is to determine the health benefits of sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment in truck drivers. This will hopefully create a model that could be used by the rest of the industry to prevent fatigue-related tractor trailer crashes.
The investigators have seen some measure of success using the sleep program. Truckers, who suffered from sleep apnea, managed to knock off dozens of pounds, and were able to reduce daytime fatigue and lethargy.
Driver fatigue and drowsiness behind the wheel is a major factor in trucking accidents in Atlanta. Until the FMCSA mandates that companies offer diagnostic programs and treatment facilities to truckers, I hope trucking companies will come forward to offer their employees such programs, to ensure everyone's safety.