Battling Obstructive Sleep Apnea – A Serious Problem for Vehicle and Transportation Operators
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are joining forces against a common enemy: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
What is OSA?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes a person’s breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. This disorder occurs when a person’s throat muscles periodically relax and block your airway during sleep. OSA has the effect of making people suffer from daytime fatigue, along with other side effects. People with OSA may experience daytime drowsiness, fatigue, irritability, difficulty in concentrating, and falling asleep while driving, at work, or watching TV.
This lack of alertness can have serious consequences for transportation workers while on the job. Train operators and commercial motor vehicle drivers must remain alert and vigilant when working because the failure to do so can cause serious accidents and injuries to individuals. It is too often a reality as we have witnessed train, subway and tractor-trailer accidents due to sleep apnea.
Why is Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Federal Railroad Administration Concerned?
These governmental entities oversee transportation of interstate commerce within the United States. Every company that operates commercial vehicles to transport passengers or cargo in interstate commerce must be registered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and have a USDOT Number. According to a recent news article from FMCSA, an estimate of “22 million men and women could be suffering from undiagnosed OSA.” This estimation presents a safety issue for the transportation industry given that truck and railroad accidents are mainly caused by operators’ tiredness and inattention.