Sleep apnea survey: 53 percent of drivers pay out of pocket

By Mark Schremmer, staff writer

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration extended the comment period until July 8 for their advanced notice of proposed rulemaking regarding obstructive sleep apnea. The original comment period was scheduled to end June 8.

The decision by the FMCSA and FRA comes after the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association requested an extension on May 18 so that it could have sufficient time to review the results from the American Transportation Research Institute commercial driver survey on sleep apnea issues, which was released on May 26.

ATRI’s survey says more than half of truck drivers who have been referred to a sleep study have incurred some or all of the test costs.

The survey includes data from more than 800 commercial drivers to help quantify the costs and impact on truck drivers as they address diagnosis and potential treatment regimen for obstructive sleep apnea.

According to the survey, 53 percent of drivers who have been referred to a sleep study paid for some or all of the test costs with the average out-of-pocket expense being $1,220. Considering that the median driver pay was $805 per week, the cost represents 1.5 weeks’ pay.

The results also indicate that a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine may not be a one-size-fits-all solution for sleep apnea. For drivers diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea, 84 percent reported having increased amounts of sleep when using a CPAP. Only 32 percent of drivers with mild sleep apnea reported improved sleep with a CPAP. However, 91 percent of drivers with mild sleep apnea were prescribed a CPAP for treatment.

Many drivers reported that examiners were using BMI and neck size to determine whether a sleep test was needed.

Submit written comments regarding possible sleep apnea requirements, Docket No. FMCSA-2015-0419, at the website or by mailing Docket Services, U.S. Department of Transportation,

West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20590-0001. You are asked to identify whether you are in the transportation industry or medical profession, but you can choose to remain anonymous. LL