Sleep Apnea Affects Transportation Companies

  • In a recent survey conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), it was found that OSA affects more than 40 percent of commercial truck drivers in the United States today.
  • Many States have adopted the medical regulations and have determined that sleep apnea is a disqualifying condition. Each State has the jurisdictional authority to suspend a CDL if a person has apnea.Section 391.41(b)(5) of the FMCSRs”
  • A motor carrier may not require or permit a driver to operate a CMV if the driver has a condition, including sleep apnea, that would affect his or her ability to safely operate the vehicle.
  • Federally mandated testing has not been implemented, however, some trucking companies have put mandatory testing into their own policies. According to Charles Czeisler, professor of sleep medicine at Harvard medical School, the crash risk for a person with Obstructive Sleep Apnea is 242% greater than a person without the disorder.


Indicators for potential sleep apnea:

Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes, but there are certain factors that put you at higher risk:

  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Being overweight
  • A large neck size (17 inches or greater for men, 16 inches or greater for women)
  • Being age 40 or older
  • Having a small upper airway
  • Having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite

Signs of sleep apnea include:


  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Loud snoring, depression
  • Irritability and loss of sex drive
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Lack of concentration
  • Memory impairment

For commercial drivers, these symptoms are dangerous and potentially deadly. Research indicates that untreated sleep apnea puts drivers at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes. In fact, one study found that drivers with untreated sleep apnea did worse on performance tests than healthy alert subjects whose blood alcohol concentrations was above the federal limit for driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).



A continuous positive airway pressure machine is the most effective therapy, requiring patients to wear a nasal mask during sleep. The mask, connected to a pump, gently forces compressed air into the nasal passages at pressures high enough to open the airway from the inside.

In addition, people with sleep apnea can loose weight, avoid alcohol prior to bedtime, and avoid sleeping on their backs. Other treatments include the wearing of oral devices and surgery to remove enlarged tonsils, adenoids, nasal polyps, or other growths. Deviated nasal septums or unusually formed jaws or soft palates can also be corrected surgically.

Once you have received treatment for sleep apnea and comply with your treatment plan, you can do your job as safely as someone who doesn’t have the disorder.

If you suspect that you have sleep apnea, the FMCSA and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) urge commercial truck and motorcoach drivers to discuss the problem with their doctor.