Sleepsafe Drivers Adds SleepWorks Program to Help Trucking Industry Improve Safetyby Jana Ritter - Published: 12/19/2012
SleepSafe Drivers has added SleepWorks to their Sleep Provider Network, bringing the number of their treatment and testing facilities to over 140 locations across the United States. After recent statistics have shown a 20% increase in trucking related fatalities and the FMCSA reporting nearly one third of truck drivers to have sleep apnea, this development is welcome news to the trucking industry.
SleepWorks is a part of the MedBridge Healthcare group of companies focused on treating patients with sleep disordered breathing problems to improved functional levels. Previously, SleepWorks had a network of over 70 sleep centers in the Southeastern United States, Colorado, and Ohio, but this recent expansion to the SleepSafe Drivers Network brings the number of treatment and testing facilities to more than 140 locations across the United States. The SleepSafe Drivers program is designed specifically for employees in risk-sensitive jobs, with a major focus in the Transportation and Trucking industry. The program allows drivers to be diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea in a confidential, convenient and cost-effective manner.
While an estimated 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that 28 percent, nearly one-third, of commercial drivers have some degree of the sleeping disorder and many studies have found that drivers who suffer from sleep apnea are significantly more likely to cause motor vehicle accidents than other motorists. Symptoms of the disorder include pauses in breathing while sleeping, resulting in arousal, which leads to sleeping in short fragments. "The sleep fragmentation means you're not getting enough sleep at night, so you're tired during the day. So, excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the hallmarks of untreated sleep apnea," explains Edward Grandi, Executive Director of the American Sleep Apnea Association.
The two greatest risks for sleep apnea are being overweight and having short sleep durations (under six hours per night). Unfortunately the nature of truck driving makes these two very common factors amongst truck drivers. But fortunately, sleep apnea is a highly treatable condition and all it takes to help make roads safer for everyone is for truck drivers and their employers to recognize, report and address the issue. While federal regulations have not yet made it mandatory, some trucking firms such as Schneider National and J.B. Hunt (two of the country's largest) are already screening their drivers for sleep apnea and have found that not only has their retention of drivers gone up, but their severe crashes have gone down, as well as their medical costs.
According to Edward Grandi, the other good news is that over the last decade there has been a movement to improve the health of truck drivers in general. Healthier food now being offered at truck stops and some rest areas even installing fitness centers are examples of the steps being taken. Grandi also says, “Although they may be small steps, the industry is headed in the right direction.”