Sleep Apnea in Truck Drivers

Sleep Apnea and Truck Drivers: A Public Health Issue With Private Consequences

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or taking shallow breaths during sleep. In recent years, sleep apnea has gained widespread attention since it poses serious risks for truck drivers and other motorists on the road. 

Commercial truck drivers are particularly susceptible to sleep apnea due to the nature of their profession. A dependable and accomplished truck accident attorney can collect evidence and prove the liability of the at-fault truck driver and the trucking company to get you the maximum financial compensation you are entitled to for your injuries and losses.

Impact of Sleep Apnea on Truck Drivers in California 

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that affects a large number of truckers across California, yet many of them remain undiagnosed. There are two primary types of sleep apnea: 

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) 
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA)

OSA, the most common form, occurs when the throat muscles relax and obstruct the airway during sleep. CSA, less prevalent, occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing. Both types of sleep apnea can result in fragmented sleep, daytime drowsiness, and other serious health consequences if left untreated.

Unfortunately, many truck drivers in California remaining undiagnosed or untreated for sleep apnea, putting themselves and others at risk on the road. Long hours behind the wheel, irregular sleep schedules, and sedentary lifestyles increase the risk of developing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. The consequences of a truck driver’s untreated sleep apnea can be catastrophic for the victims, leading to fatigue-related accidents, severe injuries, and fatalities.

Public Health Implications of Sleep Apnea Among Truck Drivers

Approximately 20% of all major truck accidents are attributed to drowsy or fatigued driving. In other words, an estimated 9,000 fatalities and 220,000 severe injuries occur each year due to this type of negligence. Fatigue-related accidents involving commercial trucks pose a serious risk to other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. 

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recognizes the importance of addressing sleep apnea among truck drivers and has implemented guidelines and recommendations to mitigate the risks associated with untreated sleep disorders.

Legal Ramifications of Truck Accidents Caused by Sleep Apnea in California

Trucking companies have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their drivers and the public. This duty includes implementing policies and procedures to prevent fatigue-related accidents, such as screening drivers for sleep disorders like sleep apnea and providing adequate rest breaks and scheduling. Failure to fulfill these obligations can constitute negligence on part of the employer.

In cases where a truck accident occurs due to the driver’s untreated sleep apnea, the driver and their employer may be held liable for any resulting injuries or fatalities. Victims of such accidents have the legal right to pursue compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages through personal injury claims.

Hours of Service (HoS) Rules for Truck Drivers in California

The key provisions of HoS rules for property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers include:

  • 11-Hour Driving Limit: CMV drivers are limited to a maximum of 11 hours of driving time following 10 consecutive hours off duty.
  • 14-Hour On-Duty Limit: CMV drivers are limited to a maximum of 14 hours of on-duty time following 10 consecutive hours off duty. This includes non-driving tasks such as loading and unloading.
  • Rest Breaks: Drivers must take a 30-minute break after 8 cumulative hours of driving time.
  • 60/70-Hour Weekly Limit: CMV drivers may not operate their vehicles after having been on duty for 60 hours in any 7 consecutive days (or 70 hours in 8 consecutive days) unless they take sufficient rest breaks to reset their weekly limits.
  • Sleeper Berth Provision: Drivers using a sleeper berth must take at least 8 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth, plus a separate 2 consecutive hours either in the sleeper berth, off duty, or any combination of the two.

In addition, key provisions listed under California Code of Regulations (CCR) Title 13, Section 1200 provide for a 30-minute meal break for every 5 hours worked and a 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours worked for truck drivers. 

Types of Evidence an Experienced Truck Accident Attorney will Collect to Prove Liability in Sleep Apnea Accidents

Dedicated truck accident lawyers will move fast to collect various types of evidence and establish the liability of the negligent truck driver and the trucking company.

  • Medical Records and Sleep Studies: Your lawyer will obtain the truck driver’s medical records, including any sleep studies or diagnostic tests conducted to evaluate for sleep apnea. These records can reveal a history of sleep apnea symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment, providing vital evidence of the driver’s condition.
  • Treatment Compliance Records: Skilled lawyers can review records documenting the truck driver’s compliance with prescribed sleep apnea treatments, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. Non-compliance or irregular use of CPAP therapy may indicate increased risk of drowsiness or fatigue while driving.
  • Expert Medical Testimony: Your attorney may consult with medical experts specializing in sleep medicine to provide expert testimony regarding the impact of untreated sleep apnea on driver performance and safety. Expert analysis can help establish a causal link between the driver’s sleep apnea and the accident.
  • Data from Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs): Attorneys can analyze data from ELDs or onboard recording devices to track the driver’s hours of service, patterns of driving and rest, and any deviations from prescribed sleep schedules. Discrepancies or violations may indicate fatigue-related risks associated with untreated sleep apnea.

Our Capable Car Accident Lawyers are Ready to Fight for You

At Garmo & Garmo, LLP, our experienced truck accident lawyers can provide you with the compassionate support and aggressive representation you need in the aftermath of a devastating truck accident. Our attorneys have several decades of experience in obtaining maximum compensation for clients. We will leave no stone unturned to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions. Schedule your free and confidential consultation with us today. Call 619-441-2500 or write to us online.