The trucking industry was the first to implement legislation for sleep apnea sufferers within the transportation communities. The aviation and locomotion industries followed suit after sleep apnea related accidents caused loss of life in those industries as well. It took awhile, for the transportation community to understand what this could mean for their companies. A conference hosted by Northbridge Insurance was the first to break down the legalities for us.
Lou Smyris of Truck News and Truck West moderated the conference, he has now written a column on the topic. The area of focus was chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea results in daytime sleepiness, slow reflexes, poor concentration, and an increased risk of accidents. After they laid out the statistics about the increased risk associated with having sleep apnea, it was on to the consequences of the regulation.
Lou looked at the legal and insurance implications you, as a motor carrier manager or owner, face if you have drivers on your staff suffering from sleep apnea and do nothing about it, particularly in the case that an accident is linked to truck drivers diagnosed with sleep apnea.
While the US is waiting for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to provide a formal ruling on dealing with sleep apnea, it has already set guidance on factors that need to be considered in determining whether employees should be tested for sleep apnea – neck size, BMI, etc.
Both US and Canadian Trucking companies have started testing employees for sleep apnea. Carriers that choose not to test will face a higher probability of being found negligent by the courts in cases where sleep apnea is found to be a factor in a crash. In the conference it was noted by the insurance companies, the fact that we don’t have any current legislation that specifically mandates testing is going to be irrelevant because once there’s an accident the prosecutor is simply going to say, “Well, if you knew about the consequences of sleep apnea, why didn’t you do any testing?”
The risk of not testing is becoming more significant for US carriers where prosecutors are looking for documentation. They will want to see the communications between owners and drivers, pressing diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea. These records could end up determining the amount of liability and the restitution awarded in cases where an accident has happened involving a driver with sleep apnea. It seems to be exactly as Lou has put it, “As an industry we have an obligation to make sure that we deal with this head on. If we don’t, the trial lawyers are going to ensure that we do.”
If you or someone you know has OSA, find out whether RFA is the best treatment option. Contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 t0 schedule a consultation when it’s convenient for you.