Every year, around the second week in September, is National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. It’s a time to honor all professional truck drivers for their hard work and dedication in one of the nation’s most demanding and vital jobs.
Truck drivers are responsible for hauling almost everything that can be bought or sold item in the country and into neighboring countries. These items are necessary for humans and animals to live and function in daily life. We rely on our truck drivers throughout the United States and truly owe them for the dedication to their jobs. According to the US Census, more than 3.5 million people work as truck drivers.
Working as a truck driver is not easy. It can require a person to be on the road for long periods of time, often missing holidays, special occasions, and time with family. Trucking is also very dangerous because you are out on the open road maintaining control of an 80,000-pound vehicle, weather can be detrimental, other drivers pose constant risk, and there are numerous other hazards that can come into play. It's also hazardous because of long-term health effects that arise from sitting all day and poor food options at trucking stops. Many point to the hazardous road conditions which truck drivers often face as a reason for the higher number of fatalities.
In addition to the obvious safety hazards and adverse conditions that come with being a truck driver, studies show that between one third and three quarters of commercial drivers suffer from some form of sleep-disordered breathing, which has created significant concerns for the drivers, their employers, medical examiners, sleep medicine providers and regulatory agencies.
Almost one out of three of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea, according to a study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and American Transportation Research Institute. (Oct 16, 2019)
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is a disorder which a person’s breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. There are different forms of sleep apnea, but OSA is the most frequent type.
Factors contributing to sleep apnea include obesity, lack of physical fitness, bad diet, smoking and poor sleep patterns. Complications from OSA include fatigue, cardiovascular problems, eye troubles and complications with medications and surgery.
The risk for truckers is they could become drowsy while driving and crash.
“To choose a lifestyle to give you sleep apnea, you choose to be a trucker,” said Anthony Warren, a sleep apnea expert in Warriors Mark, Penn., who owns an app called BreatheSimple that teaches breath-holding techniques to promote better sleep quality.
Truck drivers with OSA who don’t get treatment have a rate of preventable crashes five times higher than truckers without the ailment, according to a study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Researchers estimated that up to 20 percent of all large-truck crashes result from drowsy or fatigued driving.1
Two Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) advisory committees — the Medical Review Board and the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee — have recommended requiring sleep tests for drivers with a BMI of 35 or higher.
While FMCSA regulations do not currently address sleep apnea specifically, the FMCSA does state an individual with a clinical diagnosis or medical history of any condition that could interfere with their safe driving ability can't be medically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) in interstate commerce.
However, once they receive successful treatment, they can then qualify for “medically-qualified-to-drive” status. It’s important to know most sleep apnea cases can be successfully treated.
Many trucking companies, bus companies and even school bus companies also require drivers to monitor their treatment for sleep apnea. CPAP is a common treatment and it’s very effective for the right candidates. However, not everyone is able to adapt to the mechanism. For these people, there need to be another option. Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) offers that alternative.
At one point in time OAT was not an option because there was no way to monitor whether or treatment was being administered. But now oral appliances can transmit usage data, allowing for comprehensive monitoring. With this technology in place, federal regulations like those for truckers have been expanded to allow the use of oral appliances by people who don’t adapt to CPAP.2
At Pittsburgh Dental Sleep Medicine we can custom-fit our patients with a SomnoDent® oral appliance with with Compliance Recorder.
SomnoDent with compliance recorder is designed to specially address the need for objective compliance measurement when using oral devices to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Call us today if you, or someone you know, is in need of a compliance chip for their job as a truck driver. Contact one of our Dental Sleep Medicine experts near you.
WE ARE READY TO HELP YOU "KEEP ON TRUCKIN'!"