Study finds crash risk five times greater for truck drivers not adhering to sleep apnea treatment

Researchers say it’s the largest sleep-apnea study to date among CMV drivers

Posted March 25, 2016

Truck drivers who fail to adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a fivefold increase in the risk of serious, preventable crashes, according to a new study led by University of Minnesota Morris.

This is the largest study of sleep apnea and crash risk among commercial motor vehicle drivers to date, according to a press release from the university.

The release says the study compared more than 1,600 truck drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea to an equal number of drivers screened as unlikely to have OSA. Drivers with the disorder were given a mask with an air pump worn while sleeping to keep the airway open (an auto-adjusting positive airway pressure machine), and its use was electronically monitored. The rates of preventable serious truck crashes per 100,000 miles driven were compared across the study groups.

“To put our findings in context, if we look at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who refuse mandated treatment would have 70 preventable serious truck crashes, compared to 14 crashes experienced by both a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment,” said Stephen Burks, lead author of the study, and professor of economics and management at Morris.

Burks organizes Morris’s Truckers & Turnover Project (T&T), assisted by Jon Anderson, professor of statistics, and Rebecca Haider, research coordinator. T&T performed the statistical analysis of the study data, acquired from Schneider the first major motor carrier to institute an internal OSA program, and its sleep apnea services provider, Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics (PPD).

The study was conducted by faculty, staff, and student researchers and supported by the Roadway Safety Institute at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities.


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