Are people with sleep apnea allowed to be truck drivers?

Certain medical conditions are so dangerous that they make it risky for people to drive. Epilepsy that cannot be managed effectively is a perfect example. Those who might have a seizure at any time typically cannot retain their driving privileges.

There are a host of medical conditions which, either on their own or because of the treatment they require, may diminish someone’s ability to safely drive. There are even stricter health limitations for those who want to maintain a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expects drivers to undergo regular physicals to show that they can safely perform their jobs. Certain medical conditions could lead to someone becoming ineligible for a commercial license. Yet, others that are potentially dangerous don’t currently serve as a deterrent to driving trucks professionally.

Given all the recent media coverage of how dangerous it is to be drowsy while behind the wheel, you may be – very understandably – wondering whether sleep apnea is a condition that will affect someone’s capacity to get or maintain a CDL.

Sleep apnea is common among truckers

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects respiration when someone is unconscious, and it has a strong association with loud snoring and disrupted sleep. When someone doesn’t get sufficient sleep, they may notice a drop in their driving skill.

However, despite the known correlation between poor sleep and diminished driving ability, the FMCSA allows those with sleep apnea to operate commercial vehicles. In fact, the organization reports that almost one in three professionals with a commercial license currently have sleep apnea. These drivers are at risk of falling asleep at the wheel, succumbing to distraction in an effort to stay awake or failing to take appropriate actions to prevent a crash because of increased reaction times.

Who is to blame when a health issue causes a crash?

If someone has an issue at work because of a pre-existing medical condition, their liability is not the same as it might be if they did something obviously negligent, like choosing to drive after drinking. Still, when health issues cause performance issues and lead to crashes, commercial drivers may end up responsible for any harm that they cause.

Those affected by a collision could potentially file an insurance claim or take a drowsy driver or their employer to civil court. Understanding how a business may have contributed to a recent commercial vehicle crash can help the people affected pursue justice and financial compensation. Although sleep apnea isn’t a deterrent to obtaining a CDL, a crash investigation could reveal that a trucking company regularly allows drivers who fall asleep at the wheel to keep operating their trucks, which could absolutely affect the outcome of a victim’s case.

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