Driving and Sleep Apnea: How Sleep Apnea Testing Leads to Safer Roads

By Andrea Sequin Oct 10, 2017
Cpap mask

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part miniseries highlighting driver sleep. On Thursday (10/12) we will highlight top driver advice for getting great sleep on the road.

At Schneider, safety is our number one core value, with a culture steeped in “Safety First and Always.” This commitment led us to create ground-breaking sleep apnea testing policies that have improved the lives of people across the country and have helped keep our roads safer. We all know the importance of getting enough quality sleep, but what if you get your eight hours and you’re still feeling, well, sleepy?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects one in five American adults, including some of our drivers. OSA occurs when a person’s breathing becomes obstructed during sleep due to throat muscles that relax intermittently, meaning they stop breathing, which results in the person not reaching the full restorative REM sleep cycle. It can result in headaches, difficulty concentrating and excessive daytime sleepiness. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers have a harder time paying attention when drowsy, which can result in more deadly crashes.

In 2006, Schneider became the first large-scale employer with a program to screen, diagnose and monitor Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

The company requires all new company drivers to be screened for sleep apnea, and those found to be at risk for OSA then go through sleep apnea testing. The vast majority of testing is now done using a home sleep study, allowing the driver to sleep in their own bed or in the cab of their truck rather than in a clinic. Drivers who are diagnosed by the sleep physician as having the disorder and who require treatment have the cost of the machine and supplies covered as part of our employee health insurance program as preventive care, with no out-of-pocket costs to them.

“When you live and breathe safety like we do, screening and treating drivers with sleep apnea is just the right thing to do.”

- Tom DiSalvi, Schneider vice president of safety and loss prevention

“When you live and breathe safety like we do, screening and treating drivers with sleep apnea is just the right thing to do,” said Tom DiSalvi, Schneider’s vice president of safety and loss prevention. “We’ve seen that it makes our roads safer for professional drivers and the motoring public, but the decreased risk of other diseases and the feeling of being well rested and energized also enhance the quality of life for drivers.”

The most common treatment for sleep apnea is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. A CPAP machine is a device worn during sleep that increases the air pressure in your throat so that your airway doesn’t collapse when you breathe in, allowing a driver to get the deep, restorative sleep needed. Schneider drivers with OSA are able to use CPAP machines that are specially outfitted for their trucks, typically with no need for an inverter or additional power source. After using a CPAP machine, people with sleep apnea feel more refreshed and rested. Some have also experienced improvement in other medical conditions such as cardiac issues, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Throughout the last 11 years, Schneider has improved the health of thousands of drivers. Tammy, a Schneider recruiter, and Steve, a Schneider driver trainer, share their experiences with driving and sleep apnea:

Have you or someone you know had sleep apnea testing or been diagnosed with sleep apnea? How does treatment impact your life or work?


About the Author

Andrea Sequin IMG

Andrea is Director of Regulatory Services at Schneider. She has been with the organization since 2004, primarily in safety and regulatory areas. She previously worked in Operations for Schneider’s Tanker division. She holds an MBA from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She is an active member of the Transportation Research Board – Truck and Bus Safety subcommittee. She is also a current member of the American Transportation Research Institute’s (ATRI) Research Advisory Committee. She lives in Green Bay, Wis., with her family.

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