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Talking Points

Caution: Sleep Apnea Ahead

April 08, 2001|RONALD D. WHITE

The most recent federal statistics available show that truck drivers continue to lead other professions by a wide margin in the number of injuries and illnesses that result in lost workdays.

Most experts attribute the truck accident problem to driver fatigue, primarily on long haul routes. A nearly four-decade-old federal regulation known as the "Hours of Service" rule still allows truckers to drive 10 hours before taking an eight-hour rest break. That still means that the drivers can log upward of 16 hours a day.

Last year, the Clinton administration tried to set new rules that would have restricted truckers to no more than 12 hours of driving a day, with at least 10 consecutive hours of rest for most drivers. The effort died in Congress.

Now, new research suggests that part of the problem may also be attributable to a medical condition known as sleep apnea that makes long-haul truckers more likely to doze at the wheel. The British Sleep Foundation says truckers tend to get little exercise and also eat food with high fat concentrations, both of which can be contributing factors to sleep apnea.

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Driving to the Doctor

Truck drivers suffered more workplace injuries and illnesses that required time off than any other occupation. Number of injuries by occupation for 1999*, in thousands:

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Occupation Number of injuries Truck drivers 141.1 Laborers, non-construction 89.1 Nursing aides and orderlies 75.7 Construction laborers 46.5 Janitors and cleaners 43.4 Assemblers 40.0 Carpenters 35.0 Cooks 28.0 Stock handlers and baggers 27.3 Registered nurses 25.7

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

*Latest data available

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