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OSA Costing the Trucking Industry Billions

9/11/2012

 

Even Without Goverment Regulations, Sleep Apnea Is Already Costing the Trucking Industry Billions of Dollars Each Year

Even Without Government Regulations, Sleep Apnea Is Already Costing the Trucking Industry Billions of Dollars Each Year

As research and new court cases confirm, the dangers and responsibilities associated with Sleep Apnea may cost your business more money than you realize. Regulations requiring U.S. carriers to screen their commercial drivers for Sleep Apnea may be a year or more away; however, the consequences of accidents caused by suspected Sleep Apnea are already present and decisive in the courts.


Recent Court Rulings


During a recent Compli-hosted Webinar on legal issues within the Carrier Industry, Angela Cash, of Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, observed that “…the case law that’s developing out there [in the courts] is already putting the liability on motor carriers even without a regulation from the FMCSA that would require companies to screen for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.”[1]
Moreover, expert testimony on Sleep Apnea has lead to several courts siding with the plaintiffs in civil suits, even in the absence of a medical diagnosis.

With the constant press and research findings of Sleep Apnea case studies, companies can no longer claim ignorance on this matter. Employers in the industry must be proactive when
it comes to identifying and treating Sleep Apnea in their drivers. Warning signs for sleep apnea are easily identified, and as Cash concluded in the Webinar, “If [a] driver is involved in an accident where it appears sleep behind the wheel may have been an issue…The plaintiff’s council will say ‘I can see it, why couldn’t you see it motor carrier? You were there all along’.”

Widow raising awareness about sleep apnea among truckers

12/14/2012

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - What started as a simple road trip to Kentucky ended in tragedy. According to expert testimony, it was all because a truck driver, suffering from sleep apnea, caused a deadly crash.

Kentucky natives Wanda and John Lindsay were headed back to the Bluegrass to visit their son and granddaughter. After the crash, the family received a settlement from the trucking company, but Wanda quickly hit the road again, vowing her husband's death wouldn't be in vain.

Traffic backups on the highway---it's something most drivers run into.

In May of 2010, it happened to Wanda Lindsay and her husband John as the two were headed to Carrollton, Kentucky to visit family.

"We just happened to be the last car stopped in a line of construction traffic about three miles long," Wanda remembered.

The couple was on Interstate 30 near Texarkana when a Celadon semi-driver plowed into them.

"He was traveling 65-miles-per-hour with his cruise control engaged," Wanda told WAVE 3 News, "We later discovered he had been diagnosed with severe uncontrolled sleep apnea about two months before the collision."

Wanda was hospitalized with multiple injuries. John, a father of three and grandfather of five was killed.

Considered a first in the trucking industry, Celadon admitted the driver's sleep apnea likely caused the accident that led to John's death. After paying legal fees and hospital bills with a $3.25 million settlement, much of the rest of the money is going into the John Lindsay Foundation.

The family said John was all about helping people, whether it was taking a neighbor to a doctor or fixing that neighbor's lawn mower. So, the goal in John's memory: Waking people up when it comes to the problem of sleep apnea, especially in the trucking industry.

Studies have found as many as 30 to 40 percent of commercial truck drivers have some form of sleep apnea.

"Truck drivers can be treated and drive their equipment safely, " Wanda told us she found from her research. Apparently, more trucking companies are catching on too, like Schneider National. They've found investing in sleep apnea programs pays off, leading to fewer large crashes, a drop in medical costs and an increase in driver retention.

Wanda said, "If we can do anything to keep one family from going through the devastation we've been through, that's what we're going to do."

Wanda is touring the country and speaking with trucking industry officials. She spoke before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in Washington D.C. in December.

Sleep Apnea Among Truckers A Danger To The Public

12/14/2012

Thousands of commercial trucks flow through Arkansas every day, but what the public may not realize is that a large percentage of those behind the wheel suffer from a condition that could put others at risk. You can hear the report from FM 89's Beth McEvoy above.

Wanda Lindsay is on a mission to educate others about the dangers of sleep apnea in the trucking industry. She is also working to draft legislation that would force trucking companies to implement programs for drivers with the disorder.

Lindsay began her campaign after an accident involving herself and her husband while traveling through Texarkana.

"John and I were the last car stopped in a line of traffic that was about three miles long in a construction zone when a Celadon tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of our car," Wanda Lindsay said.

The semi-truck was traveling 65 mph with the cruise-control engaged when it hit the Lindsays' car.

John Lindsay died from his injuries two days later.

"We later discovered [the truck driver] had been diagnosed with severe uncontrolled sleep apnea, yet he was still in the cab of that truck driving and he killed my husband," Lindsay said.

She believes the truck-driver was asleep.

Event data recorders, similar to black-boxes on airplanes, now are included on most commercial trucks detailing information to the hundredth of a second. Lindsay says the recorder showed the trucker touched his brakes only seconds before crashing into them, knocking Wanda unconscious.

"He rear-ended us and t-boned our car and slammed the driver’s side, which is where John was, into the vehicle that was stopped in front of us and then the momentum propelled us into a ditch on the side of the road and he went on down the highway to strike six more vehicles before he brought his vehicle to a halt."

In the aftermath, she sought help from an attorney and discovered the truck driver had been diagnosed with sleep apnea two months prior to her accident.

"He had applied to and been denied employment by 30 other employers before he was hired by Celadon," Lindsay said.

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which people experience pauses in breathing while sleeping, resulting in arousal which leads to sleeping in short fragments.

"The sleep fragmentation means you're not getting enough sleep at night, so you're tired during the day. So, excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the hallmarks of untreated sleep apnea," said Edward Grandi, Executive Director of the American Sleep Apnea Association.

According to Grandi, 18 million Americans have sleep apnea and among truck drivers the number is higher. He says it's because most truck drivers are male, middle-aged and overweight.

"Those three criteria (are) just physical conditions that put you at greater risk of having sleep apnea," Grandi says.

A solution, Lindsay says, would be for trucking companies to put in place sleep apnea screening and treatment programs.

"If a company had a driver who had sleep apnea, wouldn't they want to know, rather than putting him out there on the highways? Truck drivers can drive their equipment safely. If they get treated they are absolutely able to driver their vehicles without any problem at all. So that's all we want to happen, to see those truck drivers healthy, alert and responsive to what's going on around them," Lindsay says.

In December, Lindsay testified before an advisory committee of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates commercial driving. They approved two recommendations to help abate sleep apnea in truckers. One calls for drivers with a body-mass index of 35 or more to have a mandatory screening for sleep apnea. However, to date, no action has been taken.

Trucking companies like Schneider National, one of the largest in the country, have begun progressive sleep apnea programs.

"They have found that not only has their retention of drivers gone up, but their severe crashes have gone down as well as their medical costs," said Lindsay.

Over the last decade, according to Grandi, there has been a movement to offer healthier food at truck stops and to encourage drivers to exercise by offering fitness centers in some rest areas. Although they are small steps, he says, the industry is headed in the right direction.

Currently, no sleep apnea programs are offered in Arkansas. But, Kelly Crow, spokeswoman for the Arkansas Trucking Association says, all drivers do have to pass a physical examination, per federal standards.

Lindsay says with the slow pace of legislation and regulation in her home state of Texas, she's hoping federal regulation comes through in a timelier manner.

"If you're standing on I-40, every five seconds a truck goes by. So, if a third of those truck drivers have sleep apnea, it's dangerous," Lindsay said.
 

Study: Truckers might understate sleep apnea symptoms for fear of losing job

12/13/2012

Commercial truck drivers could be incorrectly reporting symptoms of sleep apnea due to their fears of endangering their employment, according to a new study released at the European Respiratory Society’s (ERS) Annual Congress in Vienna.

“Our study suggests that commercial drivers are playing down their levels of sleepiness for fear of losing their jobs,” said Dr. Werner Strobel, University Hospital, Switzerland and lead author of the study.

Strobel said that although this is very difficult to prove, that data recovered from a study of commercial drivers versus a control group of patients indicates commercial drivers downplayed their sleepiness compared to other patients.

Researchers examined 37 commercial vehicle drivers with sleep apnea and compared them with a control group of 74 patients. Both groups had similar characteristics of age, body mass index (BMI) and similar numbers of disturbances suffered on average during the night.

“You would therefore expect their reports of sleepiness to be similar to begin with, however the (commercial) drivers estimated their levels of sleepiness as lower than the non-drivers,” Strobel said. “This pattern continued throughout the course of the study, with drivers reporting lower symptoms, yet receiving less treatment and making more unscheduled visits to the clinic.”

Both groups also underwent treatment using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) — the regular treatment for sleep apnea which uses a mask and other equipment to generate a stream of air to keep the upper airway open during sleep.

Levels of sleepiness were then analyzed using the Epworth Sleepiness Score; a well-established short questionnaire used to give levels of sleepiness during the day. The survey provides a score, which is the sum of eight items and can range between 0 and 24 - the higher the score, the higher the person’s level of daytime sleepiness.

At the start of the study, commercial drivers reported an average score of 8.1 on the sleepiness scale, compared with an average of 11.0 reported by non-commercial drivers, despite a similar number of disturbances at night between the two groups. The difference was also seen after six months of treatment using CPAP therapy with the drivers reporting an average sleepiness score of 4.8 and non-drivers reporting an average of 7.7.

The results also showed that drivers received less treatment (only receiving CPAP for an average of 75% of days, compared with 83%) and also had more unscheduled visits to the clinic, which suggests they were struggling with their symptoms. As commercial drivers regularly do shift work, they don’t follow regular patterns of sleep and also do not always sleep in one place; this makes adherence to CPAP treatment more difficult, researchers said.

The authors speculate that the lower scores reported by the commercial drivers could be due to drivers under-scoring their sleepiness levels for fear of losing their license.

“We can assume from these results that commercial drivers with sleep apnea symptoms could be under-reporting their sleepiness in order to protect their job,” Strobel added. “These results should be taken into account by healthcare professionals who are treating this group of people.”