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The Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea on the Transportation Industry

A large percent of truck drivers are at risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when there are periods of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. Those at the greatest risk for OSA are men and postmenopausal women, older than 42, who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or above, a family history of OSA, and/or a small jaw or airway. OSA can increase potential for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke if left untreated. Most importantly for the trucking industry, OSA leads to excessive sleepiness and exhaustion.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), approximately 28% of Commercial Driver's License holders have OSA. The crash risk for a person with OSA is 242% greater than a person without the disorder. In response, the FMCSA has proposed new regulations. Some of the proposed regulations include:

· Drivers with a BMI of 35 or greater would be certified for 60 days pending sleep study and treatment, followed by a 90-day certification if complaint free during the first 60 days. This will be followed up by a one-year certification period;

· To be a licensed, commercial driver, a person must exhibit continuous positive airway pressure at least 4 hours a day, 70 percent of days; and

· A driver would be disqualified or immediately denied certification when:

1. the driver reports excessive sleepiness during the major wake period;

2. the driver experiences a crash associated with falling asleep;

3. having been diagnosed with OSA, the driver is found to be non-compliant in treatment.

Although these regulations are still pending, the trucking industry should alter health and safety requirements in expectation of the regulations. Consult with your attorney on preparing hiring guidelines, retention protocols, and employment requirements that are in compliance with proposed FMCSA regulations and the American with Disabilities Act. In doing so, you ensure a seamless transition once the regulations are passed and continue to keep your drivers safe on the roads.


Mike H. Bassett is a Senior Partner at The Bassett Firm. Mr. Bassett's practice focuses on Insurance Defense, Transportation Litigation, Products liability, Premises Liability, and Employment Litigation. He received his B.B.A from the University of Texas El Paso in 1984 and his J.D. with distinction from St. Mary's School of Law in 1987. Mr. Bassett was voted a Texas Super Lawyer in 2006.

is a Law Clerk at The Bassett Firm graduated with high honors from New Mexico State University. He is currently in his second year at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas, Texas.

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The Bassett Firm

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Toll Free: 800-310-9769
Phone: 214-219-9900
Fax: 214-219-9456
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