by Donna Smith
On May 18th we wrote a blog post to explain the data and results conducted by the FMCSA regarding a study on Sleep Apnea;
“Sleep Apnea- A Smoke Screen for Many Truck Driver Fatigue Issues.
In that article we discussed how Truck Driver Fatigue was being used almost synonymously with the condition called sleep apnea. We showed how the data of the study was not truly representative of the results that were being spread around the various media sites. We also discussed in that article and a follow up article what the real major reasons for truck driver fatigue were caused by.
On May 19th we had a Blog Talk Radio Show, “Truck Driver Fatigue and the Sleep Apnea Deception,” discussing these finding and results, and discussed the many reasons and major causes of truck driver fatigue…and it was not sleep apnea as so many would have you believe. We did however on the show demonstrate that sleep apnea is a real and serious condition which should be treated, just not the major cause of driver fatigue which seems to be the latest and greatest ” alarm for a new mandate driver screening.”
During the show that evening, less than halfway through the show, a caller called in, defending the statistics and study conducted by the FMCSA. The call was from Bob Stanton, a speaker from the recent Sleep Apnea and Trucking Conference 2010 which was held just a few days prior to our Blog Talk Radio Show. Mr Stanton said that there were newer studies performed by the FMCSA, including ones still in process, that indeed did correlate with the FMCSA’s figure of 30% of truck drivers have sleep apnea. He also stated that the study and data we used was a different study.. Fortunately, we had done extensive research and felt confident to discuss the topic, and rightly so.
After the show I wrote Mr Stanton and requested that he email me links to the information regarding the new studies on sleep apnea which would support the 30% of drivers have sleep apnea figure which is being so loosely stated as concrete fact.
I did receive an email back. He went on to state that it’s not the % that matters, but rather the correlation between untreated sleep apnea and the increased risk of crashes by CMV drivers. Well, if it’s not the % that matters, why is everyone who is supporting mandatory screening using % to have law passed….give me a break!!
"To me the real issue is not what percent of drivers may have sleep apnea. The real issue is ... Is there a clear correlation between untreated sleep apnea and an increased risk of crash in CMV operators in studies done in the US."
Mr. Stanton also sent me a few attachments and an article ,which included a bibliography which may support further findings and possibly add to our research. He also sent the pdf which was utilized to support the “30% of drivers have sleep apnea rage”, FMCSA driver 28% more likely to have OSA. Again, notice who’s making a big deal over the percentage. The pdf has since been taken down.
After carefully reviewing everything, I could not find data which correlated CMV crashes and drivers with sleep apnea. Also, the PDF of the new study FMCSA driver 28% more likely to have OSA, which was suppose to support that high % driver with sleep apnea figure, was actually based on the original pool of 1391 drivers study within a 50 mile radius, and did not equal the exaggerated 28% figure of both the FMCSA and ATA (according to my math anyway) but rather indicated the following:
- 9.8% drivers had mild sleep apnea ( not 17.6%)
- 3.2% had moderate sleep apnea ( not 5.8%) . . . and
- 2.7% had severe sleep apnea ( not4.7%)
So rather than 28% having sleep apnea as suggested, the number is reduced to 15.7%, with the majority of those figures displaying mild sleep apnea.
You may wonder why these percentages are so different? Simple. It appears that when the calculations were made, the total number of drivers were not included in the calculations when deriving the percentage, but rather only the drivers which had been screened through the questionnaire. This is apparent by reading the part that says, “based on the results of several tests.”
Remember, only the drivers that were screened to possibly have sleep apnea were tested in the study (not the entire 1391 drivers), therefore the percent concluded are not a true representation of the entire pool of random drivers. You really can make numbers say anything you want.
These kinds of calculations were explained in detail on our Blog Talk Radio Show and also in the first article.
FMCSA finding from “A study of Prevalence of Sleep Apnea Among Commercial Truck Drivers.”
“A major goal of the study was to determine the prevalence of sleep apnea in
commercial truck drivers, based on the results of several tests conducted on
a random sample of commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders living within
a 50-mile radius of the University of Pennsylvania.
The results of the study revealed that 17.6 percent of CDL holders had
mild sleep apnea, 5.8 percent had moderate sleep apnea,
and 4.7 percent had severe sleep apnea.”
I believe by modifying the questionnaire which was given to the 1391 drivers who responded for the study, a higher number of positively screened applicants through the questionnaire were tested this time (406 screened positive the first time and 778 the second. ) This appears to be the major modification in repeating the study, not an entire new random pool of drivers which the caller suggested : ( unless by a huge coincidence, the same exact number of 1391 drivers responded to the study, which I highly doubt.
I will say this, I do agree that it would be important to see a correlation between sleep apnea and truck crashes. So far I have not seen data to support this. If anyone has a study to prove otherwise, please reply to this post with the link to the study.
Finally, let’s not lose sight of the purpose of these posts. We are NOT saying that sleep apnea isn’t a serious condition that one should not be treated. We are saying that truck driver fatigue is a serious problem that can not be solely blamed just on sleep apnea. As long as we’re all on the same page with safety and truck driver fatigue, let’s investigate everything involved in driver fatigue that can be attributed and possibly cause danger to all of our safety.
Driver lifestyle, sleep patterns, hours of continuous driving, lack of quality sleep, interruptions of sleep from qualcomm, shippers and receivers not keeping appointment time, drivers forced to drive when tired or out of hours ( gotta get that hot load delivered), and the nature of the profession all play major roles.
If a mandate is to be made to screen drivers for sleep apnea, then each driver should also be required to fill out a truck driver fatigue questionnaire asking :
- Have you ever been forced to drive by your company when you were either out of hours or too tired? If so, how often, which company?
- Have you been forced to stay awake and missed your sleep because your appointment time was late by shipper or receiver? If so, how often, which company?
- Were you ever woken from sleep by the qualcomm to ask a question that could have waited? If so, how often? Which company?
- Are you satisfied with the way the present HOS are set up?
Perhaps a study and investigation to the above questions should be conducted in order to correlate fatal crashes by CMV drivers as a result of sleep deprivation caused by trucking companies, shippers, receivers and HOS rules that are not in the best interest for the lifestyle or circumstances that exist for the professional truck driver.
These causes of truck driver fatigue are equally as serious as sleep apnea. They all force drivers to drive with inadequate or lack of quality sleep and should all be addressed in equal proportion to one another.
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