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Updated Sleep Apnea Screening Recommended for Commercial Drivers

alie P. Hartenbaum, MD, MPH, FACOEM, American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. “With recommendations based on current literature, and accepted by both occupational medicine and sleep medical organizations, a more consistent process for medical certification of these drivers can occur, decreasing the risk of accidents.”

Although the task force recommends more thorough screening, their recommendations suggest a shorter return-to-work time. Under current FMCSA guidelines, CMV operators who are being treated for sleep apnea can return to work a minimum of one month after initiation of treatment. The task force's recommendations include reducing return-to-work time to two weeks after treatment initiation in certain situations. Reevaluation after four weeks to ensure compliance with therapy and improvement in symptoms is also recommended.

“Sleep apnea is a highly treatable disorder. The new return-to-work standards we suggest are more reflective of current clinical knowledge related to the treatment of sleep apnea,” said Barbara Phillips, MD, FCCP, National Sleep Foundation. “With appropriate therapy and compliance, drivers who suffer from sleep apnea will be addressing a significant risk for impaired performance on the job.”

A study sponsored by the FMCSA and the American Trucking Associations estimated that nearly one in three commercial truck drivers suffers from mild to severe OSA1. The study found that the risk of having sleep apnea depended on two major factors - age and degree of obesity - with prevalence increasing with both. Population projections by FMCSA indicate the number of older drivers will increase by 50% over the next twenty years. Other research demonstrates that drivers with undiagnosed OSA have an increased risk (2 to 7 times) for falling asleep at the wheel. It also increases the possibility of an individual developing significant health problems, such as hypertension, stroke, and ischemic heart
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