Sleep Apnea and Fatigued Driving
Peter Ward began his driving career over 12 years ago. By all accounts, Peter is a typical driver. His wife often rides along as he drives over-the-road. Together, they enjoy having the opportunity to see the beauty this country offers.
Three years ago, Peter joined the Crete Carrier team. One day, he was informed that he would need to be routed through the terminal to have a sleep test. Before this, he had never considered the possibility of having a sleeping disorder. He knew he snored but thought that was normal for many men.
“I was upset and very nervous”, Peter said. “This test is something that can change your life. If your test is positive, your treatment option is to wear this ungodly machine every night for the rest of your life. Plus, it is always difficult to be told you are required to take a test, especially when it comes to your health. Many people would rather live in the dark about serious health concerns because a diagnosis is a scary thought.”
Over the past few years, there have been many discussions around sleeping disorders in the trucking industry. Sleep apnea is the cessation of breathing during sleep and associated with a fall in blood oxygen or arousal from sleep. This sleeping disorder is commonly found in patients also diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac problems.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has become a particular concern to the transportation industry employing over-the-road truck drivers. According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it is estimated that nearly 28 percent of commercial drivers have sleep apnea. OSA is strongly correlated with fatigued driving, which is a significant safety concern, resulting in nearly 13 percent of commercial vehicle accidents.
Crete Carrier has centered their driving culture on safety. In fact, Crete’s safety record is one of the best of the large truckload carriers in the industry. Crete made the decision to be proactive in regards to their driver’s safety and OSA. In 2010, Crete adopted a sleep apnea program to address the safety concerns that result from OSA. Crete spends well over $1 million dollars per year on the program, much of that attributed to the sleep studies.
“Fatigued driving is a major cause of fatality accidents for commercial drivers,” said Christopher Hilkemann, vice president of Risk Management and associate general counsel. “Crete Carrier Corporation is committed to investing in the safety of our drivers.”
At inception, Crete contracted with a provider bye the name of SleepPointe, LLC. Since May of this year, Crete works with a new company, Forward Healthcare, LLC. There will be a seamless transition for both companies. Crete has three terminals with sleep study facilities. Each of the Crete Carrier sleep labs offer full Polysomnogram testing with a certified sleep technician. Once testing is completed, the sleep results are interpreted by a board certified doctor and treatment is discussed. Currently, nearly 20 percent of company drivers and owner operators are using their CPAP machines to treat their sleep apnea.
The Crete Carrier sleep apnea program was designed to help drivers afford the cost of the tests and treatment, and also to reduce the number of out-of-service days drivers could expect if required to take the test elsewhere. By doing the sleep tests in-house, Crete has cut out-of-service time for drivers from nearly 20 plus days to two. In addition, Crete covers the full cost of testing, and drivers are able to obtain treatment devices through Crete’s provider at a very reasonable cost.
According to an article posted by the Mayo Clinic, individuals suffering from OSA often suffer from a host of symptoms aside from fatigue. Some common symptoms include headaches, short-term memory loss, fogginess, snoring, insomnia, high blood pressure, and chest pain. By testing drivers, Crete is working to help drivers live a safer, healthier lifestyle.
“I was diagnosed and started on the CPAP machine right after. I didn’t even realize how much OSA was affecting my life,” said Peter. “The first few nights I wore the machine, my wife woke up multiple times to check on me because I wasn’t snoring and she thought something was wrong! After the first week, I was shocked at how much my short-term memory had improved. People think that is crazy, but you can ask my wife. I actually remember things she tells me now. I was angry about the test at first, but I am so thankful that Crete made me do this. I know that the test saved my life.”