There are many different causes of trucking-related traffic accidents. From poorly maintained or badly designed vehicle equipment, to poor road conditions and driver error, most highway tractor-trailer accidents are hardly ever that… accidents. As Maryland truck accident attorneys, my office knows what to look for when it comes to injuries caused by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company.
One cause of commercial truck crashes that is frequently in the news is that of driver fatigue. Government regulation limit trucker to a maximum number of hours behind the wheel, which ideally means that the driver then gets sufficient rest before the next day’s driving shift. What the law can’t easily address is how well truckers sleep and whether or not they are fully rested as a result.
Enter the problem of sleep apnea. A common problem with the general public, this affliction can cause loss of concentration and has been known to result in motorists falling asleep at the wheel. But for the average office worker, sleep apnea is more likely to get him chewed out at work than cause him to crash his automobile into a family of five on the interstate.
Unfortunately for the driving public, sleep apnea in truck drivers is a serious and potentially deadly condition, especially since these individuals not only drive eight to 10 hours a day, but their “office” is a 25-ton 18-wheeler traveling at close to 70mph on the expressway.
Apparently the trucking industry is taking this problem seriously as well. According to a recent news report, a recent gathering in Baltimore — the Sleep Apnea & Trucking Conference — where industry leaders, medical sleep professionals, regulators and vendors came together to address sleep apnea in trucking.
It is acknowledged by the industry, in general, that sleep apnea among truckers is a public health concern and that drivers, who admittedly have an already difficult job, can also suffer from multiple health problems. One researcher, Dr. Martin R. Walker, pointed out to attendees that the prevalence of sleep apnea in commercial truck drivers may be greater than most people know — a 2002 study determined that nearly one-third of commercial drivers have mild to severe obstructive sleep apnea.
One interesting item that came out of the conference was a statement by a legal expert who said until that now sleep apnea has not been a “major player” in trucking accident litigation, however it will likely become part of the “legal landscape” sooner rather than later.
Sleep apnea problems discussed, eTrucker.com, May 13, 2010