Regarding the proposed FMCSA regulations as they relate to sleep apnea; is it me, or do the so-called medical experts not realize that sleep related issues are and will always continue to be one of the many risks associated with long-haul trucking?
With over three decades of experience as a long hauler in the industry I feel that I am as qualified as any expert to lend my opinion to this debate.
I’d like to begin by saying that in all those years I have probably managed to average about three nights a week of what most people consider to be a sound sleep. On the surface, one would surely believe me to be suffering from a medical condition. The reality is that most people outside of the driver’s realm cannot begin to fathom the daily course of events that prevent us from getting the sleep we need and deserve. There are a host of reasons why a vast majority of drivers suffer from fatigue brought on by the effects of sleep depravation. Sleep apnea is less a ‘cause’ of fatigue than it is a result of the lifestyle we are forced to endure.
A few examples:
• Unrealistic sleeping patterns caused by irregular pick-up and delivery appointments — 3 a.m. on Monday; 7 p.m. on Tuesday, midnight on Wednesday, and so on
• Unrealistic scheduling. Who’s fooling who? More often than not, we live and die by the whims of shippers and brokers. Sleep becomes something that happens after the customer is taken care of
• Being awakened by the noisy motors and noxious fumes of APU units. (As these units are becoming more and more ubiquitous, so too are the incidents of carbon monoxide poisoning)
• Being awakened by reefer units with frozen loads that require the units to run full blast for extended periods. These motors are exceptionally loud
• The inability to consistently find safe and proper parking, causing many drivers to park in areas that are either illegal or unsafe, adding to the anxiety level which does not lend itself to a sound sleep
• A lot of fleets have begun using ‘back-up’ beepers on their trucks. Imagine the wake-up call in the parking lot of the truck stop at 3 a.m.
• Doors being knocked on by the denizens of the night. Sometimes more than once.
• Doors being knocked on by your friendly constabulary because your truck is too far down the exit ramp of the overcrowded rest area. Tickets always add to a more sound sleep
• Not being able to idle in 80-degree heat or 30-degree cold. So instead of sleep, we sweat or freeze
• The inane Hours of Service regulations that, in spite of statistics, probably cause more accidents than they prevent. It’s a scientific reality that the human body’s circadian It’s a scientific reality that the human body’s circadian rhythms tell us to nap during the day. The currents rules as written do not encourage this
• The inability to properly exercise as often as we should. After the stress of driving all day, the mind is willing, but the body is not, and
• Stress from home. Stress from traffic. Stress from cash strapped states and municipalities wanting our hard earned money. Stress from the continuing onslaught of burdensome regulations that never seem to cease. Stress, stress, stress. It’s as much a job requirement as any other high-stress job.
And the list goes on and on. My point here is that no matter how the experts cut it, the real reasons that most drivers feel fatigued are as a result of the demands of the job. In our line of work, as in many others, sound sleep is a luxury.
As I’ve been chasing the information to try and keep up with the rulemaking process regarding sleep apnea, a simple question begs; who are the people responsible for advocating these regulations? The simple answer is – follow the money. As I’ve researched those individuals most involved in the process, I have discovered that many of them stand to profit keenly by way of franchised clinics, CPAP machines and sleep study centers once the regulations come into play. And they are pushing hard. Many of them will be attending the sleep apnea conference that was held May 11-12 (see related article page ?). Can anyone tell me just how objective these attendees will be?
Highway safety is everyone’s concern. How I choose to sleep or not is mine. If a driver is so irresponsible that they get behind the wheel when they should be sleeping, then I can understand the concern. But to legislate something as private as a person’s sleep?
To be blunt, with the myriad of other issues at stake in our industry, I think of the sleep apnea concern more as a subterfuge created by bureaucrats who need to justify their existence. There are many more causes and effects of driver fatigue than in how restfully one happened to sleep the previous night.
In the final analysis, I believe that the regs are coming. All I can say is, I hope the federal government is prepared to pay permanent disability to all those who were forced out of their careers because of such nonsense. And to discriminate against me because of my weight or neck size? Can anyone say EEOC class action lawsuit?
— Dante Staciokas