Sleep Apnea Testing for Commercial Drivers
The possibility of U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations regarding sleep apnea testing has been the subject of much debate in the transportation and shipping industry for quite some time. Online Epworth Sleepiness Evaluations have become commonplace for commercial trucking companies requiring CDL drivers due to the shocking number of accidents caused by tired drivers. Nearly 28 percent of commercial truck drivers have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which makes fatigue-related accidents a very real concern.
It’s thought that since the trucking industry is already experiencing a shortage of drivers, removing individuals with OSA from the road could lead to a shutdown of the industry. Since this is neither desirable nor practical, testing and treating the greatest number of at-risk drivers as possible is the realistic solution. The U.S. government has long recognized that home-based and portable testing for OSA is effective in making an accurate diagnosis. Home testing has many advantages for drivers and for the companies that employ them.
Sleep Apnea Tests for Commercial Drivers
In order to keep their job and continue driving legally, a commercial driver must have a valid medical card. Those drivers who have been identified as high risk for obstructive sleep apnea must be tested as soon as possible so that if treatment is needed, they can receive it in order to be eligible to keep their medical cards. The safety of the driver and of the public are of the greatest concern when dealing with OSA. Not only does OSA increase the risk of a fatigue-related accident, it is linked to other health issues as well. Effects of untreated OSA include cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, coronary artery disease, fatigue, high blood pressure, obesity, fatigue and type 2 diabetes—all of which can cause a serious emergency on the road.
It’s estimated that about 7% of commercial motor vehicle crashes can be attributed to driver fatigue. Motor vehicle crashes that involve commercial vehicles are more likely to result in serious injuries than crashes that do not involve commercial vehicles, due to the size of CDL vehicles.
Home Sleep Testing’s Benefits for Commercial Drivers
Diagnosis and appropriate treatment of sleep apnea are critical not only for quality of sleep, but also for overall health, quality of life and job performance. CDL drivers should be aware that successfully treating OSA is not a disqualifying condition for continuing to earn a living as a driver, but rather a tool that makes their jobs easier and safer. Because many commercial drivers are 1099 contractors rather than employees of a company, they often have non-traditional health insurance—if they have health insurance at all. Home sleep testing and portable testing are generally much less expensive than in-lab sleep apnea testing. To be more specific, home sleep testing is typically priced around 10 percent of the cost of an in-lab test!
Home sleep testing is also easier than in-lab testing to schedule on short notice. There are plenty of scheduling conflicts that can occur with a sleep lab, while administering the test from home poses no conflict. CDL drivers paying for testing out of pocket can even refer themselves and may not need an outside referral in some cases.
How this Benefits the Trucking Company
Many carriers require drivers to be testing for OSA prior to hiring. In this way, companies reduce the incidence of drivers being sent for expensive testing that may not be necessary. However, it is possible for drivers to develop symptoms of OSA after being hired. In these cases, home testing offers a cost-effective option for carriers, who must be able to reduce their liability for hazardous conditions caused by drivers with undiagnosed and untreated OSA. Each fatal accident involving a commercial motor vehicle is estimated to cost $3.6 million. Although systematic testing of those drivers at moderate to high risk for sleep apnea may seem to be expensive, it may in fact, save the company money as well as saving lives.
Home sleep testing offers significant savings for the paying party, but it also offers a faster solution than traditional in-lab tests. In-lab testing can pose scheduling conflicts, making it time-consuming to simply take the test. In-lab testing also requires a frequent back-and-forth from insurance provider to the physician that can take quite a bit of time as well. Home sleep testing avoids these interruptions and streamlines the sleep testing process—making it convenient for all parties involved.
Drivers’ safety will always be the primary concern of the transportation and shipping industry. A significant source of driver fatigue and accidents can be addressed with home-based testing for obstructive sleep apnea. Home Sleep Delivered offers fast, accurate and affordable home sleep testing and the quality CPAP supplies to keep your drivers on the road and out of harm’s way.