Transportation Industry Seeks Cheaper Route for Sleep Apnea Testing

October 27th, 2020 by admin Leave a reply »

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s health and safety initiative aimed to promote better lifestyles and wellness amongst drivers of the transportation industry is in full swing with a focus on obstructive sleep apnea testing and treatment taking center stage. The notion, in the eyes of transportation company executives and safety directors, of having to have their entire fleet of drivers tested and possibly treated for obstructive sleep apnea immediately brings up financial concerns as well as logistical issues stemming from drivers being off the road to get tested. However, what many of these same executives and directors are unaware of is that, with new technology and a properly managed sleep program drivers can be tested for sleep apnea and set up on treatment without having to spend a day out of their truck.

The FMCSA has approved the use of unattended in-home diagnostic sleep testing devices within the trucking industry to help alleviate some of the concerns regarding cost and time expressed throughout the industry. At a fraction of the cost of traditional in-lab studies and the ability for a driver to take the test in the comfort of their own home or in the cab on their truck while out on the road, trucking companies have embraced this new testing method with open arms. So with financial and logistic concerns eased with the use of in-home testing, the real question that faces trucking companies is where to begin with getting their drivers screened and tested. This is where having a well organized sleep program through an outside provider will help smooth out the process. There are several approaches a company may select to take on the task of testing drivers and it really boils down to the wants and needs of the company as to which will fit in best with their existing operations.

Companies that want to get ahead of the curve have adopted what can be referred to as a “proactive” program in which they are actively having their drivers screened and tested when necessary to avoid having drivers pulled from their trucks by a medical examiner who requires a sleep study to be done prior to granting a driver certification to operate their vehicle. Body Mass Index and neck size are two easily quantifiable indicators that medical examiners use to determine whether or not a driver will need to have a sleep study done and companies who have taken the proactive approach are having their drivers screened by a sleep study provider for these two attributes prior to any recertification physicals. The drivers who are at or above the current FMCSA recommendations (BMI > 35, neck size > 17 inches) are then scheduled to perform a sleep study and pending outcome of sleep study, set up on proper treatment to control their sleep apnea. On the other end of the spectrum are companies that either do not want to “hassle” their drivers to get screened and tested out of fear of drivers quitting and joining a competitor or simply do not have the resources to implement a proactive program. For these companies, a “reactive” approach to sleep apnea management is the program of choice. In a reactive program, drivers are solely referred to have a sleep study done by their examining physician in order to grant the driver a certification.

In both program scenarios, a vigilant compliance monitoring system for drivers who are set up on treatment is essential to ensure proper treatment is being received to control the sleep apnea and keep drivers safe behind the wheel. Medical examiners require drivers to provide compliance information when going for recertification or when a temporary certification has been granted to the driver to allow time to get tested and treated before a full certification will be issued. To track compliance information, CPAP machines can be fitted with a wireless modem that allows for real-time compliance updates or the use of a smartcard or memory chip can be used to record compliance information and then downloaded when needed.

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