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Federal truck regulators may use BMI for trucker apnea testing

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition where the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and close off the airway, which leads to periods of breathing cessation and accompanied by loud snoring. This condition causes poor sleep that is not restive or restorative and leads to excessive daytime drowsiness.

For most people, dozing at work could be difficult or inconvenient. For a truck driver in a cab of an 80,000-pound semi truck barreling down I-40, and any motorists in the vicinity of his truck, it could be catastrophic.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is attempting to come up with rules to protect the driving public from this danger. Truck drivers are limited to driving no more than 14 hours in a day, but if you have ever driven that many hours you know how exhausting it can be. Imagine doing that with sleep apnea causing poor sleep and leaving you drowsy most of the day.

The FMCSA is considering requiring any driver with body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher to be screened for sleep problems caused by apnea. This is a matter of great concern, as surveys suggest that as many as one-quarter of all truck drivers would be subject to such tests.

Truck driving is an occupation that makes staying fit difficult. Many truckers do drive 14 hours per day, which leaves little time for exercise. They are seated behind the wheel of their truck and because of the demands of driving, often eat less than ideal meals. This can lead to weight gain, which is one of the leading indicators of risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The trucking industry is opposed, to these testing requirements as they feel they will be forced to pay for the test and lost time off the road. Nonetheless, drowsy drivers behind the wheel of large trucks are a frightening prospect for any motorist.

Just last week, a bus driver slammed into the rear of a truck at 5 AM, with no sign of braking at the scene. We may never know, as the driver was killed at the scene, but it could be just the most recent crash that was caused by a sleepy driver.

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