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Sleep Apnea Mandate – Does the Data Really Indicate 28% of Truckers have Sleep Apnea?


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.

© 2010 – 2016, Max4health. All rights reserved.

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8 Responses to Sleep Apnea Mandate – Does the Data Really Indicate 28% of Truckers have Sleep Apnea?. - Post a Comment

  1. Leslie R Auger

    yes I listened to your show about sleep apnea and felt that the guy who called in and represented himself as a driver and an apnec was a FMCSA plant and the discussion was not going in the direction that you wanted it to or in a direction were my experience would have been of value. These pencil pushers just don’t really have a clue and I agree with you the they are creating an atmosphere for more unfunded mandates against drivers and company’s

  2. Leslie R Auger

    Hi Allen and Donna, I wanted to add a little more here, first I have been diagnosed with Sleep apnea since 1991 and have been under treatment since that time, I am what they would be called sever as my pressure setting was at 18 cm for most of that time. The last sleep study I did (Dec 23 2009) they raised my pressure to 20cm which is the maximum on a cpap machine, I have been driving big rigs since 1993 and have, never, I repeat NEVER, had a fatigue related incident or accident.
    A person affected with sleep apnea that is not severe or moderate, may get away with it undetected for a long time, but the severe apnec will not. We need more education not more regulation

  3. […] Sleep Apnea Mandate – Does the Data Really Indicate 28% of Truckers have Sleep Apnea? […]

  4. Brenda Shanle

    I believe an investigation needs to be made on the effects of sleep deprivation because of the regulations, shippers, receivers,and trucking companies. By the rules drivers can be sitting forever & still have to drive for hours. They need to make new rules on how long drivers can work. I think no more than 12 hours total with sitting & driving. The drivers never get the rest they need & are very stressed.

  5. Drag N Fly

    The HOS is a big contributer to the problem. Typical day: I am loaded. Clock starts. Ride 5 miles to rcvr. 2 hrs unload. 25 miles to shipper. 2 hrs to load. I have spent 4 hrs out of 14 at the dock. 14 minus 4 equals 10, but I am expected by employer to do 11 hrs driving which cant be done now, so I cant stop to eat, peeing counts against me, so I gotta git it, git it, git it, until that 14 clock runs out. Now I am hungry, go in truckstop, pig out, go to bed, get obese, and they tell me bmi is such n such so I gotta take sleep apnea test. Well who caused this? the feds.
    Old rules: stop the clock for 2 hrs in the middle of the day, get yr butt out of the truck and exercise, shower, eat a healthy sit down meal, take a short nap, and boogie some more. Now this driver will be healthier, wont be obese, and wont need to take no stinking sleep crapnea test.

  6. Allen Smith

    It’s all about money …

  7. Don Lanier

    Ive recently had to ENDURE the Sleep Apnea testing for the mandated reason of my neck size is 20 Inches, now Im a big fella, My neck size in High School was 191/2 Ive had to order my clothes most of my life, Ive always been LINEBACKER big, So I get a Doctor at a NATIONAL Chain of DOT MED CENTERS whose about 5 foot tall, He says Open your Mouth, and as hes trying to look down my throat but hes a foot short, he says OH YES I CANT SEE THE BACK OF YOUR THROAT, well Shorty, try a STOOL, Now Im involved with another National SLEPP CENTER testing comnpany who has me go home, weraing a device of questionable resultsd, It measure heart beat and respirations, and supposed Oxygen Levels and has a LED that when placed on my finger can supposedly read the oxygen level of my blood. Maybe I missed something in Electronics calss of which Im a Major, But a simple LED can sense the Oxygen level of my blood, ????? VooDoo science at best, Now I wear this device all night to sleep, then return it to the doctors. BEFORE all this I filled out 10 forms at least with Medical Historys, asking me my quality of slleep, My Sex Drive, Do I get Headaches, do I wake up Irratable….Only when Ive got some Witch Doctors 275.00 test hanging around my head while I sleep…. I interview with a Nurse Practitioner who I explain, While I am overweight Im healthy as a horse, I never have any of these Issues, I sleep great especially on my new Bed, and sice Im an expeditier I sleep in Hotel rooms, I sleep fine…..No amount of reason seems to sway her from her desired course of getting me on the 275.00 test overnight, so here I sit with this device around my neck, staring at my numerous SAFE DRIVER AWARDS, From the State, ATA, and my Company, My safe driver jacket for 5 years of accident free driving, My 12 year record of NO ACCIDENT, NO TICKETS, NO FREIGHT CLAIMS but Im a Sleep apnea RISK…If this is Governemtn at work, we need to find some new Lobbys and Congressional reviews to look at the real causes of Driver Fatigue, oh and a Drivers record, then you can accuse him of being asleep at the wheel, Ive seen more ceongress men and women asleep at there desks, where is the test…The Entire NFL has necks bigger than mine, But Ill be scrutinized for something Im sure I dont have,,,,We need better regulations for sitting at docks, and lost time due to missed appts. I feel its an affront to the professional driver, the Concientous driver and its a scam to make money for some VOODOO Science they want to pick the pocket of the truck driver, and by the way I dont have Insurance as Im an O/O so its cash BEFORE testing, CASH before well give you your MED CARD, and CASH is what this is all about. BAH HUMBUG zzzzzZZzzZzZzZZzZzZz

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