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How Undiagnosed Sleep Disorders Impact Your Business
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

We’re constantly being reminded to get enough sleep no matter what type of lifestyle we live or work we do, but some professions make it more difficult than others.

Between long and irregular work hours and being alone for most of their shifts, it’s easy to see why commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators make up a large portion of the estimated 70 million Americans who have sleeping disorders.  

Fatigue management program specialist Rodolfo Giacoman of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) notes there are about 80 identified sleep disorders, and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is one of the most commonly undiagnosed in the transportation industry. Around 26 to 30 percent of today’s commercial drivers experience symptoms of OSA, yet only 5 to 15 percent of them are receiving effective treatment for it.  

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Those with OSA may repeatedly stop breathing for more than five seconds per hour from closures of the upper airway. Therefore, it can be difficult for sufferers to self-detect symptoms and may be misdiagnosed with other conditions. OSA can severely disrupt the sleeping cycle, reduce quality of life, and cause numerous other health implications, including the following: 

  • Diabetes 
  • Hypertension 
  • Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease 
  • Cardiovascular Disease 
  • Lipid Abnormalities 
  • Polycystic Ovarian Cancer 
  • Dementia 
  • Clinical Depression 

OSA isn’t the only sleep disorder affecting the American population; insomnia, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, restless leg syndrome, and abnormal circadian rhythms also take a toll on us nearly every night. Signs of sleep disorders may include but are not limited to excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), difficulty falling asleep, and loud irregular snoring accompanied by gasping.  

Anyone who experiences these symptoms and drives as a part of their job duties can put themselves and other drivers at risk. Falling asleep at the wheel as well as decreased reaction time and cognitive performance can result from EDS, and these factors can all potentially lead to deadly crashes.  

Taking specific initiatives to help your drivers treat their sleep apnea will not only reduce their risk of accidents and potentially lower your health insurance costs, but it will also help with driver retention and improve their overall quality of life. As an employer, these should all be goals you keep in mind during your regular operations.

How a Sleep Disorder Program Can Make All the Difference 

Schneider National implemented an OSA program in 2006, which required every new employee to be screened for sleep apnea. Those found at risk were to receive sleep apnea testing. The cost of diagnosed drivers’ continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines and supplies were covered by the carrier’s employee health program.  

For their drivers treated with CPAP, the company saw a major ROI. The carrier …  

  • Saved an average of $550 on health-related expenses per driver every month. 
  • Saw a 73% drop in preventable accidents. 
  • Experienced a retention rate 2.3 times higher than other employees  

These are all impressive returns on investment, but potentially the biggest advantage of OSA programs is how well they can protect carriers from substantial lawsuits – or nuclear verdicts. Like many other crash-related litigation claims, it has been found that carriers should be aware of their drivers’ sleep disorders from their medical examination reports or any witness reports of EDS on the job.  

Related Blog: Are Your Driver Files Putting You at Risk?  

Carriers are putting themselves at risk for negligence claims by failing to implement any type of fatigue management program (FMP). Even once they have one in place, it’s pertinent to ensure the program is complete and comprehensive in nature, appropriate for the individuals impacted by it, and successful in preventing fatigue-related accidents.  

Implementing Fatigue Management Technologies  

A huge component of any effective FMP should be fatigue management technologies (FMT). When carriers decide to start including these components in their everyday operations, there should be plenty of employee education and training to go along with them. Helping dispatchers, managers, and drivers learn fatigue management strategies aligns everyone with the goal of preventing EDS and improving safety.  

Providing drivers with tips to improve their sleeping habits can go a long way; however, sometimes that isn’t enough. Wearable technologies that detect and measure driver activity can help others see when they are on or off duty, such as actigraphy. It tracks the wearer’s movements to analyze when they are asleep and when they are awake to determine how much and the quality of sleep they’ve had. Dispatchers and managers should be aware of this to avoid disrupting drivers when they need to rest.  

In-cab video monitoring is another option. Employers can see if the vehicle is moving, the time between each driver’s stops, and driver response time. Some other vehicle FMTs include lane monitoring, eye measurements, and steering input. 

A Rock-Solid Safety Culture Starts Here  

In terms of dispatcher and manager FMTs, any type of software that assists with driver scheduling, freight planning, or pre-duty testing can ensure drivers are given the appropriate amount of work and they’re fully prepared to complete it safely.

When any carrier intertwines their FMP with their overall safety culture, it makes it much easier for their fleet to adopt the best practices and FMT put in place. It can be an adjustment for drivers to accept the new policies or technologies introduced as part of the initiative, but if they’re aware of their safety benefits, they are much more likely to follow and use them.  

Keep Track of Your Fleet’s Safety & Driving Habits  

Another great addition to any FMP is MVR monitoring. As a program that monitors drivers’ motor vehicle reports, it allows carriers to see anything from accidents or DUIs to speeding tickets or other motor vehicle violations or convictions. CDL suspensions or revocations, safety violations, or medical certificate downgrades can also be detected with the program.

Foley’s MVR monitoring program is completely automated, meaning you don’t have to do anything once your fleet is enrolled. As soon as a driving violation is committed, you’ll receive a real-time e-notification. From there, you can determine the cause of the violation, and if it’s related to a driver’s sleep disorder, you can take corrective action and adjust your FMP accordingly.

Ready to see our MVR monitoring program in action? Request your FREE software demo now and start putting your fleet’s safety first.

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