Driving tired truckers to sleep compliance

Friday, November 30, 2007

HOPEDALE, Ill. - Is the driver of that 18-wheeler next to you on the highway alert and focused or is he an accident waiting to happen?
A sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition habits and odd sleep schedules mean a higher-than-average risk that truckers will have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)--nearly 30%, according to the Federal Motor Carriers Administration.
Hopedale Medical Complex Sleep Disorders Center took that to heart. Working in tandem with trucking companies, the center offers sleep apnea screening and therapy for drivers.
"We're doing education programming and testing when necessary," said Ron Wizieck, director. "Hopefully our efforts will slow the rates of (drivers developing OSA)."
Because truckers are constantly on the road, the center gets creative with follow-up for truckers fitted with a CPAP. Hopedale uses a device called ResTraxx, which sends data wirelessly to a caregiver, either the sleep center or a case manager at the trucking company. It tracks how often the CPAP is used and can pinpoint mask leaks or other problems the user may have.
"If there seems to be a problem, we can reach that trucker online through their trucking company and work out any problems," said Wizieck
Typically, a device like ResTraxx is used during the first 30 days or so of therapy, said Pat Lope, director of occupational health for ResMed.
"For the first 30 days they are on a day-to-day watch," said Lope. "The first 30 days are critical to get the behavior you need to ensure compliance and drive toward efficacious treatment."
While working so closely with an employer to manage employee health might seem strange, it's catching on, especially in the trucking industry. A study published in the August 2006 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reported that 5,000 people are killed each year in accidents involving commercial trucks. While sleepy employees are costly for any company, the stakes are much higher for trucking companies who face lawsuits, higher liability insurance and loss of revenues if a sleepy driver crashes.
"If they are not having as many accidents, they are not having to recoup those losses," said Wizieck. "They spend less on health care, and hopefully their liability costs decrease and it keeps trickling down."