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Drivers with untreated OSA five times more likely to crash, study finds


GREEN BAY, Wisc. — A study involving Schneider’s sleep apnea screening and treatment program has found it is delivering significant health and safety benefits for drivers.

Schneider began screening drivers for obstructive sleep apnea in 2006, and claims to be the first large-scale employer to do so. It also monitored OSA treatment adherence as part of its program.

A study led by the University of Minnesota, Morris, with contributions from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has found that the program is having a dramatic and positive effect on road safety.

Its findings were just accepted for publication in the medical journal Sleep. The study involved more than 1,600 Schneider drivers with OSA and an equal number of control drivers with comparable job experience and tenure. OSA patients were grouped by treatment adherence and objectively monitored.

Drivers received auto-adjusting positive airway pressure (APAP) treatment through a machine that could be used at home and in the truck sleeper berth. The study found that the risk of serious, preventable crashes was five times higher among truck drivers with OSA who did not adhere to Schneider’s sleep apnea treatment program, versus matched controls. The crash rate of drivers with OSA who followed Schneider’s treatment program was statistically similar to the control drivers without OSA.

“If we look at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea left untreated would have 70 preventable truck crashes, compared to 14 crashes experienced by both a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment,” said Stephen Burks, lead author of the research article and professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota, Morris.

Schneider currently requires all new drivers to be screened for sleep apnea. It works with drivers to be tested at clinics across North America. The cost of treatment for drivers with sleep apnea is covered through the company’s health insurance program.

“At Schneider, we’re driven by our number one core value of Safety First and Always,” said Tom DiSalvi, Schneider’s vice-president of safety and loss prevention. “When you live and breathe that philosophy like we do, screening and treating drivers with sleep apnea is just the right thing to do. Clearly it makes our roads safer for both professional drivers and the motoring public, but the decreased risk of various other diseases and the overall feeling of being more rested and energized also enhance the quality of life for drivers.”

 


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