Untreated sleep apnea increases crash risk

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

MORRIS, Minn. – Commercial truck drivers with untreated obstructive sleep apnea crash five times more often than those without sleep apnea, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.

Drivers with OSA who somewhat or completely complied with their therapy had a crash rate similar to drivers without OSA, the study says.

“The most surprising result of our study is the strength and robustness of the increase in the crash risk for drivers with sleep apnea who fail to adhere to mandated treatment with positive airway pressure therapy,” Stephen V. Burks, study lead author and professor of economics and management, and principal investigator of the Truckers & Turnover Project at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said in release. “The results of our study support the establishment of obstructive sleep apnea screening standards for all drivers through the commercial driver’s medical exam.”

The study included 1,613 truck drivers at a large trucking firm who had OSA and the same number of truck drivers who did not have the condition but who had similar experience and tenure. Drivers with OSA were given positive airway pressure therapy and an auto-adjusting machine for use at home or in their truck. Nearly 700 drivers fully followed treatment requirements, almost 600 partially did, and nearly 400 never adhered.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration recently announced they are considering requiring sleep testing for transportation workers. The FMCSA has been working on guidelines for testing and treating commercial drivers for nearly a decade.