By: Allen Smith
There may be a new regulation coming for the trucking industry. If so, this new requirement could effect as many as 3.9 million licensed commercial truck drivers, according to a recent study by the Cambridge Health Alliance.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode, called an apnea, lasts long enough so that one or more breaths are missed, and such episodes occur repeatedly throughout sleep. Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined as five or more episodes per hour of any type of apnea. There are three distinct forms of sleep apnea: central, obstructive and complex ( a combination of central and obstructive). Regardless of type, the individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is diagnosed with an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram, or a Sleep Study. This “Sleep Study” may be the laying foundation for the new trucking regulation.
Truckers with severe sleep apnea or who sleep less than five hours a night are more likely to experience sleepiness and impaired ability while driving, one study concluded. Furthermore, studies have shown that obesity is the most significant risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea. Over 60% of adult Americans are categorized as being overweight. Each year obesity causes at least three hundred thousand deaths in the United States. The statistics are even worse for truckers.
Studies show that approximately 73% of drivers are overweight and more than 50% are obese. Because of these statistics, another aspect for the possible new regulation will be a required BMI test for truck drivers. BMI ( Body Mass Index) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both adult men and women. It is calculated by four different categories:
- BMI of 18.5 or less = Underweight
- 18.5 – 24.9 = Normal Weight
- 25 – 29.9 = Overweight
- 30 or greater = Obesity
As an example, an adult male who is 5′ 10″ tall and weighs 220 pounds, would calculate out with a BMI reading of 31.6, thus being regarded as obese. An adult woman who is 5′ 8″ tall and weighs 150 pounds, would calculate out at 22.8 BMI, being regarded as normal weight. You can calculate your BMI to see where you would fit in, if this was already a regulation for truckers.
Being discussed on the grounds of safety, sleep apnea testing, along with BMI calculations, is becoming more of a possibility as a new trucking regulation. Even though this condition is completely treatable and reversible, I have heard from one source that one trucking company has said that they expect to lose 20% of their current drivers if this does become a regulation. We have learned that many trucking companies are in a silent “panic mode” right now, and plan to either ask new driver applicants to take the sleep test, as well as considering current drivers in their employment to have the testing performed also.
Other factors which may be considered before someone could become a professional truck driver are:
- High blood pressure testing
- Their pattern of sleep
- Neck size
Their is a lot of underground talking going on about the problem of sleep apnea and obesity. Don’t be surprised if this new testing soon becomes a new regulation for the trucking industry and our nation’s truck drivers.
UPDATE: Read our updated post from May 13th, 2010 –Sleep apnea testing coming soon for truck drivers.
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