Palm Bay Couple Killed in Semi-Tractor Trailer Accident on I-95

New, stricter standards designed to reduce fatigue-related crashes may be coming for truckers in the United States. Sleep apnea is the specific target of this proposal. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration received similar recommendations from two separate panels, which studied driver fatigue accidents.

Miami is no exception to the incidence of truck accident events caused by fatigued–or even sleeping–drivers. The two advisory panels (one, medical and the other, industry safety experts) came to similar conclusions. Sleep apnea causes an inordinate share of crashes.

The proposal recommends that FMCSA advise medical examiners that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or higher must have an evaluation for sleep apnea. Both advisory panels maintain that people with a BMI (measurement of body fat based on height and weight) of 35 or higher is a key indication of the presence of sleep apnea. The higher the driver’s BMI, the higher the risk of sleep apnea and, potentially, truck accidents.

One panel, the Medical Review Board, a group of five doctors, has been recommending this regulation since 2008. While middle age and male gender also contribute to sleep apnea, BMI is a key and easily measured trigger.

The proposal, currently in the Federal Register “comment” phase, outlines conditions that would immediately disqualify a driver, including falling asleep at the wheel or having a fatigue-related truck accident. While the driver undergoes medical evaluation and treatment examiners could issue 60-day conditional cards to keep drivers licensed during this period.

To emphasize the seriousness of this issue, one expert stated that the accident risk for a driver with sleep apnea is a huge 242 percent greater than for an operator without the condition. Finally, the industry is beginning to understand the importance of this problem. Some carriers have even implemented their own screening programs to reduce the risk of sleep apnea crashes.

Source: Truckinginfo, “FMCSA Proposes Guidance for Sleep Apnea,” Oliver B. Patton, April 20, 2012