The Medical Review Board of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has recommended that CDL holders with a body mass index of 30 or higher be referred for sleep apnea testing. There is no timetable for action on this recommendation.
Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that interrupts a person’s breathing during sleep. It can cause sleeplessness, fatigue, excessive snoring, acid reflux and other health problems, and can aggravate any existing heart or lung trouble. Certain physical features, such as excessive weight, are common to people with sleep apnea, although people who aren’t obese can suffer it as well. A BMI of 30 or greater – 220 pounds for a 6-foot-tall person – puts people at risk for developing obesity-related medical conditions such as sleep apnea.
My anecdotal observation, as a trial lawyer in Atlanta handling catastrophic tractor trailer accident cases and interviewing a great many truck drivers, is that sleep apnea is a substantial hazard in the trucking industry, that a significant number of drivers are very much at risk, and that many of them may be motivated to avoid the sort of medical consultation that would lead to diagnosis and treatment because of the perceived risk of loss of income.
To require sleep apnea testing for the group of drivers most at risk could be a positive measure for both the safety of the traveling public and the health of the truck drivers.