Trucking is a job that must be done in order to get materials from one state to the next and believe it or not the number of truckers on today’s roads is at an all time high. In fact, in 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that over 6.8 million drivers were registered as commercial vehicle drivers. Of those 6.8 million truck drivers, the administration estimated that 1.9-4 million of them suffer from some form of sleep apnea. Sadly, sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated and this often leads to traffic accidents and collisions that are deadly to other innocent drivers.
Take for instance John and Wanda Lindsay who were traveling on the Texarkana interstate in May 2010. In just a few seconds, John and Wanda Lindsay were struck by a 40-ton tractor-trailer going 65 miles per hour. The truck slammed into the pair’s small Hyundai, killing John Lindsay. After the crash, it was determined that the truck driver had been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea.
While John and Wanda Lindsay are just two victims of sleepy truck drivers, the number of accidents involving commercial trucks is startling. In 2009 about 3,400 died in accidents involving commercial trucks and over 74,000 others were injured. Statistics say that more than 1,000 of those deaths and 20,000 injuries may have been caused by truck drivers with untreated sleep apnea. A 1995 study conducted by the the American College of Chest Physicians determined that 78% of truck drivers have sleep apnea. In 2002 a similar study was conducted that found nearly 1/3 of truck drivers suffer from the sleep disorder.
Today there are no precautions or screenings in place in order to find out which truck drivers may be suffering from sleep apnea. Ideas have included screening drivers who have a BMI or 30 or greater while others say that such screening would be too expensive and time-consuming. And while it may cost money, what many don’t realize is that these screenings may save innocent lives and can also improve the life’s of affected truck drivers.
Treating Sleep Apnea In On-the-go Careers
While sleep apnea treatment and CPAP often go hand in hand, when it comes to truckers, a CPAP machine may not be the most ideal treatment type. For one, for a CPAP machine to be functional, it has to be plugged in, an accommodation that may not always be readily available for a trucker. At the same time a CPAP machine may not be the best option because it takes up space. Instead, truckers may experience more success using an alternative treatment option such as oral appliance therapy (OAT). This type of therapy does not require any extra space and doesn’t require any type of electric current to work.
If you’re interested in OAT or another alternative treatment for sleep apnea, be sure to contact Dr. Berry to learn more about the options available to you. Alternative treatment is also available for CPAP-intolerant sleep apneics. Contact our Denver office online or call (303) 691-0267 today to get started.