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Truck Driving and Sleep Apnea: A Silent Threat to Truckers’ Health and Road Safety

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Truck Driving and Sleep Apnea


Do you know how sleep apnea and truck driving are related? Truck driving and sleep apnea are closely linked to accidents on the highways. Statistics have shown that almost 53% of truck drivers in the US have sleep apnea. In this article, you will get expert insights on sleep apnea and truck drivers. You will also find out answers to questions like Can you be a truck driver with sleep apnea? Uncover the facts and considerations for safe trucking and know about sleep apnea tests for truck drivers to avoid such accidents if you are a truck driver with sleep apnea with our expert truck lawyers at Royce Injury.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea, as the name suggests, is a sleeping disease that happens due to a prolonged living style of staying awake for long hours. It is very common among truck drivers as they have to work long hours. and have an unconventional sleep schedule. The breathing becomes shallow in sleep apnea, leading to a decrease in blood oxygen levels that can cause fatigue, mental and physical exhaustion, and other medical conditions. There are different types of sleep apnea.  

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): It is the most common type of sleep apnea in truck drivers. It happens because tissues in the muscles of the trachea relax too much during sleep, obstructing the airway. According to the National Institute of Health, there is a prevalence of OSA among 936 million people in the US.
  • Mixed/Complex Sleep Apnea: It is a mix of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): It is a less common type of sleep apnea and it happens when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles to do their function at regular intervals

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

There are many risk factors for sleep apnea and can happen to people in any age group and ethnicity. Sleep apnea is observed more among males compared to females, and it is mostly observed in people who are above the age of 40. Some of them are as follows:

  • People with a history of obesity
  • A narrow trachea
  • Alcoholics
  • People who smoke
  • People who have a large neck size
  • Age factor
  • Post-menopausal women
  • African Americans
  • People with an ongoing medical condition
  • People who have a disturbed or unconventional sleep schedule
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Genetics
  • Other similar causes

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea in Truck Drivers

The common symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Mood swings
  • Troubled sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Sweating at night
  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion in the morning
  • Overweight
  • Lethargic and sluggishness in daytime
  • Memory issues
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Migraines

How Many Drivers Are Impacted by Sleep Apnea?

According to the Statistics by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania in collaboration with the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Association, there are approximately 1/3 of the truck drivers in the USA who are suffering from mild to severe sleep apnea. The National Institute of Health estimates 2.4-3.9 million commercial drivers have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Similarly, the Bureau of Transportation statistics have shown in a study that approximately 17.6% of commercial truck drivers suffer from mind sleep apnea. Getting treatment for sleep apnea is very important for drivers because, according to the statistics presented by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 20% of truck accidents occur due to the lack of sleep the truck drivers have, and it has resulted in approximately 90,000 fatalities in the US.

Is Driving Still Possible for Truckers Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea?

There are some strict regulations under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration about truck drivers who have sleep apnea. The drivers who have it can still drive, but they have to follow certain conditions, and certain prerequisites have to be met before they are qualified to drive large trucks again. The law requires them to have a thoro medical examination by the Department of Transportation (DOT). If DOT standard medical examination shows that the driver is suffering from mild sleep up near, then they are still eligible to drive. The results of the medical examination show that the driver is suffering from where sleep apnea then they are prevented from driving large drugs under their commercial driving license until they get a clearance from DOT which says does a driver is medically fit to drive the vehicle. 

CPAP Compliance as Per DOT: What is it?

The drivers are required to fulfill CPAP Compliance (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure), which is the treatment for sleep apnea in truck drivers. Part of this treatment is wearing a mask/machine by a sleep apnea driver when they sleep. It helps in regulating their breath and avoids obstruction of the airways. For any driver who has mild sleep apnea, the regulations of the Department of Transportation (DOT) require them to use CPAP for at least 4 hours/night per 70% of the nights. There is a usage report with CPAP that helps the medical examiners at DOT determine whether the driver is compliant with the regulations of the organization. CPAP is an effective mechanism for drivers who have sleep apnea because it allows them to still drive under their commercial truck driving license as long as they use the machine and are certified by DOT medical examiners as fit to drive. 

The DOT medical examiners issue compliant certificates on the following basis:

  • A conditional certificate is issued for 30 days for the new users of CPAP. It is essential to show compliance for one month to get an extension certificate for the next months. 
  • An extension of two months is granted to the compliant driver at the end of the first month if they have shown that they have used the machine as prescribed.
  • An extension of one year is granted after successful compliance for three months. 

The driver must go through a medical examination or must finish the relevant therapy to get “medically qualified to drive” clearance. It is essential to adhere to the regulations of DOT to avoid an accident. If the driver fails to comply with the regulations and it results in an accident, the driver will be liable for negligence.

Truck Crashes Stemming from Sleep-Induced Wheel Control Loss

Truck crashes stemming from sleep-induced wheel control loss happen when the driver is fatigued and they fall asleep at the wheel. Sleep-induced truck crashes have severe implications for life, property, and infrastructure damage. The factors involved in such crashes are:

  • Sleep deprivation results in fatigue and exhaustion. It is often associated with drowsy driving. 
  • Conscious awareness of the road: The driver lacks conscious awareness of the environment around them and has trouble concentrating on the road because of sleep and fatigue.
  • Microsleep: A fatigued mind of the driver often experiences small involuntary sleep intervals that comprise a few seconds. They are called microsleep episodes. These episodes can be very dangerous and cause truck crashes stemming from sleep-induced wheel control loss.

Proving Sleep Apnea as the Culprit in Truck Accidents: How?

Establishing the liability of a truck driver due to sleep apnea can be challenging, but it is crucial to consult an experienced sleep apnea truck accident attorney to move forward in the right direction. If you have been in a sleep apnea truck accident, here are the few things you must do on priority:

  1. Get the necessary medical attention. Run all the essential diagnoses and get treatment. Save the receipts, medical bills, and expenses to claim medical compensation.
  2. If the driver was on CPAP treatment, furnish their records to support your injury claim. Check the drive logbook to see if they have complied with the regulations of maximum driving hours allowed. This can also be done by examining the data from Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) such as EROAD, Keeptruckin, Transflo, etc.
  3. Gather documents, evidence, CCTV footage of the accident (if available), police report, statement of the eyewitness, etc, to strengthen the position of your case. 
  4. Get a proper evaluation of the damages you have suffered from medical, legal, and psychological experts. The damages can be:
  •   Medical bills, treatment expenses, 
  •   Loss of wages
  •   Non-financial damages (mental agony and pain, psychological problems, etc.)
  •   Punitive damages (fines etc.) 
  •   Disability damages (temporary or permanent)


In a nutshell, sleep apnea is a sleep condition that can be very detrimental to truck drivers while they are on-duty hours. Sleep apnea is associated with people of different age groups and may result from an existing medical condition. It is easy to diagnose sleep apnea because it has many common symptoms. Regulations of the Department of Transportation allow a driver with sleep apnea can still drive a truck under their commercial license if they have a CPAP clearance certificate. If you have suffered a truck accident caused by a driver falling asleep at the wheel, consulting the injury lawyer is the first step in the right direction. Our experienced Injury Lawyers are here to help.

Jason Royce Allen

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