Trucker fatigue isn't always caused by lack of sleep

Trucker fatigue is one of the most common causes of crashes involving semi-trucks on Kentucky highways today. However, that fatigue is not always a direct result of not getting enough sleep. The Congressional Research Service reports that numerous truck crashes have been found to have been a result of sleep apnea. Truck drivers who suffer from sleep apnea can get a full night’s sleep, but still feel exhausted throughout the day.

More than 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Nearly a third of truck drivers are included in that number. There are three types of sleep apnea, but the root problem is the same: people affected will stop breathing in their sleep several times throughout the night, usually without waking. This deprives people of a proper sleep, making them feel fatigued all the time.

The risk factors and symptoms

If it is not treated, sleep apnea can lead to a crash at the wheel, heart disease, diabetes and depression among other consequences. While it primarily affects black men and Latino men, other races and genders are susceptible to it. There are several risk factors for the condition:

  •       Overweight
  •       Genetics
  •       Older than 40
  •       Large neck
  •       Use of alcohol/tobacco products

Symptoms include loud snoring, constant exhaustion during the day, memory problems and headaches in the morning. Doctors can help with combatting sleep apnea by testing patients for the condition at a sleep center.

Sleep apnea and driving

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration explains that there is no law that prevents people with sleep apnea from becoming a commercial truck driver. A medical examiner can recommend that certain people at risk for the condition should be screened before becoming a driver, but it is not required. That is something the FMCSA is working to change. As of now, the rule states that people with sleep apnea cannot be “medically qualified” to drive, but that status changes upon proper treatment. Sleep apnea can be detrimental to drivers, so getting tested before driving is important.

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