Monday, August 2, 2010

Truckers Asked to Hit the Gym Before Hitting the Road

Regulators want truckers to shape up, explains NPR’s Frank Morris in a recent “All Things Considered” piece. Hear the whole story at NPR.

Federal regulators have announced plans to step up scrutiny of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in truckers – making some professional drivers evaluate their eating and exercise habits.

The Official Blog of the AADSM reported on these plans earlier this year.

Excess weight increases a person’s risk for OSA. Truck drivers, who may sit for 10 to 11 hours a day, tend to have a higher risk than most people. Doctors writing federal transportation policy believe that up to 40 percent of professional drivers are significantly overweight.

In the general population, four percent of men and two percent of women have OSA. In the trucking population, that number nears 30 percent!

One of the main risks of OSA is drowsy driving, which contributes to thousands of crashes each year. A federal study shows it to be a factor in 13 percent of truck crashes.

The NPR story notes that truckers have to get a medical exam at least every two years to qualify for their license. But many drivers see doctors who may overlook red flags for OSA, like obesity.

Dr. Maggie Gunnels, who serves on a panel that's rewriting health regulations for truckers, says the panel's job is to remove high-risk operators from the road. "It's safer for them, and it's safer for the American public who travel," Gunnels says.

The panel published proposed rule changes months ago. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will begin to formalize them soon, starting by establishing a registered pool of approved health screeners with the potential for systematic OSA screening.

Image by Rich

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.