Sleep apnea is considered such a potential threat to driving safety that professional truck drivers who are found to have a moderate to severe form of the condition will lose their commercial driver’s license (CDL) if they don’t undergo treatment. It’s no wonder that many drivers won’t take a test to determine whether they have sleep apnea if they don’t have to.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) doesn’t require companies to test their drivers. Doctors who examine drivers to assess their fitness for a CDL can determine on a case-by-case basis whether to test someone. They may test people who are at greater risk for sleep apnea because they’re overweight, they’re smokers or are older. However, anyone can suffer from the condition. Businesses can determine whether they will require drivers to undergo testing before they hire them or at intervals after they’ve been hired.
There have been efforts to enact a federal law that would require all truck drivers to undergo sleep apnea testing. However, government officials and lawmakers have essentially given up trying to pass the law since the Trump administration has worked to reduce rather than increase regulations across a variety of industries.
The reason that sleep apnea can be so dangerous for truck drivers (and those who share the road with them) is simple. People with the condition don’t get a proper night’s sleep — even when they’re sleeping a recommended number of hours. That’s because sleep apnea interferes with a person’s breathing. Therefore, the quality of their sleep is poor. That can cause them to have difficulty concentrating or even to doze off behind the wheel — particularly when they’re driving long stretches or during the overnight hours.
Even though the companies that hire truck drivers aren’t legally required to test them for sleep apnea, it could benefit them financially to do so. They can and should be held liable when their drivers cause a crash that injures or kills someone if they could have done something to keep an unsafe driver or truck off the road. These lawsuits can be extremely costly. However, victims and surviving loved ones can and should seek the compensation they need to deal with medical bills, burial costs, lost wages and more.