Many truckers in Pennsylvania, some without knowing it, suffer from sleep apnea. This is a disorder that periodically stops one’s breathing while sleeping, and it is responsible for all kinds of health conditions. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea among truckers, and by interrupting their sleep, it can make them a safety hazard on the road.
Specifically, OSA robs individuals of the ability to get deep sleep and REM sleep, which are responsible for repairing the physical and mental aspects of fatigue, respectively. Individuals wake up tired no matter how long they slept, and they may suffer from headaches, high blood pressure, depression and memory problems. In extreme cases, OSA leads to heart attack and stroke.
The DoT requires truckers to have their neck size and BMI measured because neck sizes greater than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women, as well as a BMI of 30 or greater, make one more likely to develop OSA. Truckers may be placed out-of-service or issued a restricted license if the physician considers them too unhealthy to drive.
There are many treatments available, including the use of mouthguards for mild OSA and CPAP machines for moderate or severe OSA. “Sleep apnea pacemakers” can be surgically implanted when these and other treatments prove ineffective.
Sleep apnea is just one possible cause of drowsiness among truckers. Truckers may let themselves become sleepy by, for instance, exceeding the number of hours they can drive per day. Whatever its nature, drowsy driving is negligent and can open up the way for a claim when proven to be the cause of motor vehicle collisions. As for those who are injured, they may want a lawyer to represent them during settlement negotiations and, as a last resort, litigation.