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Truckers may face increase in sleep apnea screening requirements

North Carolina motorists who are concerned about their safety on the roadway may be interested to learn that trucking companies may soon be screening more drivers for sleep apnea. Based on the U.S. Supreme Court's April decision not to hear a case on the matter, courts do not appear to be willing to grant truckers protection for obesity under the American with Disabilities Act. As a result, some companies may now require testing with less fear of being named in a potential lawsuit.

One sleep apnea expert says that truck driving as an occupation can lead to obesity as well as other health problems. In turn, obesity is a contributing factor of obstructive sleep apnea, which could cause drivers to become drowsy while they are behind the wheel. Study results indicate that fatigued driving may cause up to 20 percent of all trucking-related accidents.

However, treatments are available. One of the most common, the CPAP machine, keeps airways open during sleep, which may allow sleep to proceed uninterrupted. However, the cost of testing for the medical condition can range from about $500 to $9,000. In some situations, the driver could ultimately be held responsible for the testing payments.

Some industry officials disagree with a proposed rule for sleep apnea testing. According to a spokesperson for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, a mandate is not necessary. The trade group also suggests that monitoring a driver's use of a CPAP machine is a violation of a federal privacy rule. Regardless, a North Carolina resident who is seriously injured in a truck accident may be entitled to financial compensation from all responsible parties.

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