By: Allen Smith
So all the complaining, blogging and voicing of opinions did not stop CSA from happening. The same is true for the current hours of service change, recently proposed by the FMCSA. For a time, everyone can share their comments concerning the HOS rule changes on the FMCSA website so they can “consider” everybody’s input on the matter. It reminds me of all of those past “listening sessions” that were held prior to the CSA being implemented.
The bottom line here is that the FMCSA is going to do whatever is in their best interest, politically; furthermore, the lobbyists and back-door dealers are going to see their policies take effect against the trucking industry and truck drivers for what is in their best interest, money. There is big money to be made for many new businesses and ventures by way of the CSA. Another money-maker that could soon be heading our way is the standardized testing of truck drivers for sleep apnea. More than likely, sleep apnea testing could be the next big wave to hit truck drivers and it could pack quite a punch.
FMCSA sleep apnea test results flawed.
Currently, the FMCSA has no requirement for truck drivers to take the sleep apnea test in order to obtain a medical certificate. Many trucking companies, however, are anticipating this to become the next big regulation to be handed down sometime in the future. Therefore, the company can require a driver to complete the testing as part of their new hiring or continued employment policy. Should the driver refuse, they could risk being terminated. All of this has been brought about by the FMCSA’s sleep apnea test results from a study by the University of Pennsylvania Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology. The only problem, however, is that the test results were flawed as you can read from our previous post: Sleep Apnea Mandate.
Nobody disputes that sleep apnea is a serious condition which deserves medical treatment. However, it is not appropriate for everyone to be blasting out that 30% of all truck drivers have sleep apnea, based on a flawed test and consists of a mandate that is being pushed heavily by lobbyists and manufactures of the CPAP machines.
Anne Ferro, chief of the FMCSA, recently stated that “three in ten truck drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea.” Her statement came from the FMCSA’s test results as so have many other statements by bloggers, writers and of course, attorney’s across the nation.
Trucking social media holds industry accountable for wild claims.
There is no scientific proof or evidence of any kind that shows sleep apnea has been a major cause of accidents among truck drivers. The FMCSA’s Prevalence of Sleep Apnea Among Commercial Truck Drivers Study offers a lot of cool and fancy words and slogans, yet does not offer concrete evidence correlating truck crashes with sleep apnea.
In fact, a study performed by the American Transportation Research Institute shows quite the opposite findings from the FMCSA study. Although clearly defining that sleep apnea is a condition to be taken seriously, the 1995 study showed that 78% of commercial truck drivers had sleep apnea. However, it was eventually revealed that the test was flawed due to the fact that “researchers studied only some drivers at only one company.”
The ATRI study showed that only 4.7% of commercial drivers in the study were found to have severe sleep apnea. Another 5.8% had moderate sleep apnea and 17.6% had mild sleep apnea. There is a big difference between 30 percent and 78 percent. However, this study also was sponsored by the FMCSA. The problem here, is 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. When done correctly, the figures come out as:
- 2.7% had severe sleep apnea
- 3.2% had moderate sleep apnea
- 9.8% drivers had mild sleep apnea
Therefore, the true percentage value would come to 15.7% of those drivers having sleep apnea, not 30 percent, of which corresponds with the overall average of national testings performed . . . 15.7 percent.
Agenda trending lobbyists and money-making deals politically motivate these types of policies being forced upon the industry and drivers, providing no real evidence to the contrary. The lifestyle of the truck driver has more to do with fatigue and lack of sleep, than these so-called sleep apnea test results.
Take for example, a past study done by the state of Oregon and their “Car/Truck Crash Cause Study.” It showed that fatigue was noted being twice as high in car drivers than in the driver of the big rig. Also, let us not forget that a 2002 study by the AAA showed that car and truck crashes were the direct fault of the car driver, 75% of the time; a study that if it were done today, I would bet would show the same, if not higher.
All too often, everyone will take what is thrown at them by the FMCSA or other big name organizations, etc., as the founded truth, without ever researching for the proven evidence. Another example is the old adage that “truck drivers life expectancy is 16 years shorter” than the average person. This was also first thrown about by the FMCSA. Again, there is no evidence, proof or scientific data that in any way shows this to be the case. The FMCSA said it . . . so it must be true.
The next big wave.
As safety lobbyists and CPAP manufactures push for the sleep apnea testing, offering under-the-table deals . . . $3200 testings could be headed our way sometime in the future. Some trucking companies may pick up the cost, but most likely it will be the responsibility of the truck driver, and we all know that every trucker out there has $3200 plus laying around.
Other issues will surely arise as well. For example, how will a DOT officer know if a CPAP machine is not working correctly or has any other kind of function incapability? How will a law enforcement officer have the right to order a driver to replace his or her sleep apnea device when this is a medical condition? Will insurance cover the cost of the test and what about owner operators who have no insurance? Will this mandate increase the possibility of a real driver shortage, not an industry induced one?
Required sleep apnea testing is not here yet, by order of the FMCSA, but trucking companies are already gearing up for what could be coming and professional truck drivers are already feeling the punch.
© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.