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CPAP machines: Are they tough enough for the truck?

Like many professional drivers, I have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that causes the airway to partially collapse during sleep, preventing the sufferer from attaining any restorative rest.

Like many professional drivers, I have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that causes the airway to partially collapse during sleep, preventing the sufferer from attaining any restorative rest.

I started using a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) breathing machine to treat my sleep apnea in 2007.

That was over four years ago. It has made a world of difference for not only me, but for my family and also Swift Transportation of Arizona, my employer since 2002. I’m kept busy running all 48 US states, with frequent trips into Canada.

I like my trips to Canada very much. It gives me the chance to lay a lip over a fabulous Tim Horton’s coffee or two! Incredibly good stuff.  

To say the journey to treat my sleep apnea is a life-changing experience would be a definite understatement. In fact, I can proudly say I’m a sleep apnea success story.

Yes, I am now a better, safer driver, but it goes farther than that. I am also a more alert, focused and productive driver, too.

However, this whole journey isn’t about me. For anyone who suffers from sleep apnea, it’s about working with your employer and making a personal commitment to start the process moving. Help them help you. As the first Swift driver to be treated in our company’s sleep apnea pilot program, there was plenty of opportunity for learning – what worked, what didn’t, what needed to be fine-tuned – and constructively applying lessons learned to help pave the way for those Swift drivers who’d be following in my footsteps on their own paths to a better, healthier way of life.

Part of this ongoing learning process meant working with Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics (PPD) of Houston, Texas, which manages Swift’s sleep apnea program and, over a period of months, field-testing CPAP breathing machines on trucks. I have tested four units.

All did the job as they were designed to do, provided, of course, attention was paid to regular inspection and cleaning of the machine. Most of them required use of a 300-watt power inverter that was provided and installed by Swift. This is yet another maintenance item.  

It’s important to understand these CPAP units were originally configured for home-use only; that is, operated in a clean, constant temperature environment, and with little or no movement.

The only deviation to this light routine might be the occasional away-from-home trip to go visit your Uncle Buck, something lasting no more than a few days. In short, a pretty tame environment.

In-truck use of CPAP breathing machines and a driver’s life on the road is anything but tame.

Many of us know just how strenuous it can be.

Round-the-clock truck movement, often in a 24/7 operating environment in variable weather conditions offers some challenges: exposure to vibration, jolts, dust, oppressive humidity, extreme dryness, numbing cold, and searing heat are some of the conditions CPAP breathing units face on a truck. Neglect of regular inspection and cleaning by an inattentive driver is also, quite often, the handmaiden of premature machine failure.

Fortunately, some CPAP unit manufacturers have listened to the driver feedback and have taken it very seriously. Recently, ResMed rolled out a more robust “military grade” breathing unit that incorporates several significant improvements. Its new unit is not only better, but is completely quiet.

Best news of all, however, is it comes with new interchangeable power modes. I use the 12-volt power converter for use in the truck. At home, the regular 110-volt power supply works fine.

Engineers listened and came out with a CPAP breathing unit that can better handle the day-in, day-out variable conditions that are found on any truck.

My only remaining wish is for the major truck manufacturers to step forward by designing a removable multi-purpose shelf or rack to house and protect your CPAP breathing machine.

This is something that, in my opinion, is sorely needed. And sooner, rather than later.

In the meantime, driver life on the road with a CPAP breathing machine is not only possible, but is easily done. All it takes is you, with a personal commitment, to start your own journey on the path to a better, healthier way of life. I wish you all nothing but the very best.

– Ken Armstrong is a nine-year senior driver-mentor with Swift Transportation based in Memphis, Tenn. He runs all 48 US States and Canada. He and his family reside in Clarkston, Mich.

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2 Comments » for CPAP machines: Are they tough enough for the truck?
  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Kenneth, Great article. You mentioned you tried 4 units and they all worked. You also mentioned a new unit from Res-med. Can you tell me the model of these machines? Just interested in the CPAP machines that are appropriate for a mobile scenario.

    Thank you!


  2. Adam Ledlow says:

    Hi Melissa,

    We spoke to Kenneth and he advised us that the ResMed unit in question is their S9 model.

    Thanks for your question!


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