Sleep apnea may afflict as many as 28 percent of commercial drivers, according to studies.

Trucking Sleep Apnea Conference Announced

The May 12 meeting at a hotel near Baltimore and Washington will bring experts together to seek solutions to a problem that may afflict as many as 28 percent of commercial drivers. An indication of the federal interest in this issue is the fact NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman will deliver a May 11 keynote speech.

The American Sleep Apnea Association announced the first-ever Sleep Apnea & Trucking Conference will take place May 12 at The Westin Baltimore Washington-BWI hotel, with a reception and keynote address from National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman taking place the previous day. Large trucking companies and federal agencies are sponsors of the event, signaling the interest in both camps in finding solutions for the problem. Sleep apnea may afflict as many as 28 percent of commercial drivers, according to studies.

The association says obstructive sleep apnea usually causes breathing interruptions lasting 10 seconds to more than a minute, resulting in non-restorative sleep and subsequent fatigue. OSA afflicts at least 20 million Americans, although more than 85 percent of them remain undiagnosed, ASAA notes.

Individuals who have the illness also are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart problems, stroke, and depression, and their annual health care costs are twice that of people without OSA.

"The meeting's objectives are to provide a common understanding of OSA diagnosis and treatment, clarify current and proposed regulations, create a forum of experts to generate guidance for improvements, and provide trucking management attendees with a resource toolkit to improve employee health and safety as well as realize significant benefits for the company," said Ed Grandi, ASAA's executive director. He said the problem is not easily solved.

"Considering the perceived expense associated with diagnosis and treatment, the potential loss of income for drivers, and the need for additional research and thoughtful regulation, the issue becomes quite complex," Grandi explained. "By convening this meeting, great strides can be made to overcome some of the stumbling blocks that have prevented further progress."

Participants in the conference at this point include NTSB, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the American Trucking Associations, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, J.B. Hunt, Schneider National, ResMed, REM Medical, and OccuMedix Inc.; others will be announced, according to the ASAA.

Schneider National is among the trucking companies that have elected to diagnose and treat drivers with OSA. "Schneider National believes that we have a moral obligation as a company to operate the safest fleet we possibly can put out on the road," said Don Osterberg, senior vice president, Safety at Schneider National. "As far as a return on investment, we've found that not only have we reduced crash frequency and severity, we've improved fleet retention. We've seen dramatic reductions in health care costs with drivers after they've been diagnosed and treated."

For more information about the conference, contact Reid Blank at 408-247-0030 or rblank@sleepapnea.org.

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