Study: Truck Drivers with Untreated Sleep Apnea at Greater Risk of Crashing

Truck drivers who fail to adhere to treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a fivefold increase in the risk of serious, preventable crashes, according to a new study led by University of Minnesota.

The study compared more than 1,600 truck drivers diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to an equal number of drivers screened as unlikely to have OSA. Drivers with the disease were given the gold-standard treatment: a mask with an air pump worn while sleeping to keep the airway open (an auto-adjusting positive airway pressure machine), and its use was electronically monitored.

Treatment carried no out-of-pocket costs under the study firm’s employee medical insurance plan. The rates of preventable serious truck crashes per 100,000 miles driven were compared across the study groups.

“To put our findings in context, if we look at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea who refuse mandated treatment would have 70 preventable serious 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 study, and professor of economics and management at Morris.

Burks organizes Morris’s Truckers & Turnover Project (T&T), assisted by Jon Anderson, professor of statistics, and Rebecca Haider (’13), research coordinator. T&T performed the statistical analysis of the study data, acquired from Schneider, the first major motor carrier to institute an internal OSA program, and its sleep apnea services provider, Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics (PPD).

Anderson said, “I expect our sleep apnea findings will be carefully considered in the rulemaking process on sleep apnea standards for truck drivers and train operators just launched on March 8, 2016 by the US Department of Transportation.”

Burks said, “The paper’s results suggest putting obstructive sleep apnea screening standards in the medical exam commercial truck drivers take every two years. I am very pleased that Morris students have helped add to the scientific evidence that will be used in this important public policy-making process.”

The study was published online in late March in the journal Sleep. It is reportedly the largest study of sleep apnea and crash risk among commercial motor vehicle drivers to date.

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California Trucker Forced to Shut Down after Repeated DUI Violations

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared California-licensed truck driver Yakov Zaverukha to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce. Zaverukha, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was served the federal order on March 25, 2016.

On March 21, 2016, while operating a large commercial truck, Zaverukha was stopped and cited by the Illinois State Police for driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol level of 0.308 percent – nearly seven times the limit set by federal statute.

On that occasion, Zaverukha was also cited for possession of intoxicating beverage while on-duty or driving and for failing to retain driver logbooks for the previous seven day period – both immediate out-of-service violations. Zaverukha further received citations for the illegal transportation of alcohol and improper lane usage.

Previously, Zaverukha was convicted twice in Connecticut of alcohol-related violations while operating a commercial motor vehicle and once in Massachusetts.

On November 2, 2012, Zaverukha was convicted by the state of Connecticut for refusing a breath alcohol test; his CDL was suspended for approximately eight months. Later, on December 12, 2012, Zaverukha was again convicted in Connecticut for the same offense resulting in the suspension of his CDL for approximately 15 months.

In 2007, the state of Massachusetts convicted Zaverukha of multiple violations of driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Following that conviction, Zaverukha’s CDL was suspended for approximately one year.

FMCSA’s imminent hazard out-of-service order states that his driving history “…demonstrates that Zaverukha is unwilling or unable to cease operating a commercial motor vehicle while using alcohol,” adding that his “…continued operation of a commercial motor vehicle…puts the motoring public at imminent risk for serious bodily injury or death if not discontinued immediately.” Zaverukha also may be subject to a civil penalty enforcement proceeding brought by FMCSA for his violation of the agency’s safety regulations.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order by a CDL holder may result in civil penalties of not less than $2,750 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than 180 days for a first offense.  A second offense may result in civil penalties of up to $5,500 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than two years.  Failure to comply with the provisions of the imminent hazard out-of-service order may also result in criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Semi Driver Flees Scene After Fatal Crash with Pickup Truck

Police in California are actively looking for a trucker accused of fleeing the scene after a deadly crash on the early morning of April 30th.

Shortly before 3 a.m., investigators said the driver of the 18-wheeler ran a red light before colliding with a pickup truck that was found lodged underneath the trailer of the big rig.

According to authorities, the suspect apparently detached the cab from the trailer and fled.

When emergency crews arrived on scene, they found two men trapped inside the pickup truck.

The driver was removed from underneath the trailer and transported to a nearby hospital in critical condition, police said. The passenger of the truck was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have confirmed that the driver had been involved in a minor crash near Soto and 37th streets shortly before the deadly incident.

Authorities say the driver of the 18-wheeler is described as a tall white male, Gray said. The trailer left behind was not reported stolen, officials said. The identity of the driver is still under investigation.

However, they have identified a man by the name of Guillermo Ortiz Jr. as “a person of interest” in the crash.

If convicted, the trucker could face several charges, including: fleeing the scene of an accident and manslaughter.

 

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Deadly Crash Results in the Shutdown of Massachusetts-Based Trucker

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has declared Worcester, Massachusetts-based trucking company John A. Robles (J and J Transportation) to be an imminent hazard to public safety and ordered that it immediately cease all intrastate and interstate operations.

Records Not Supplied to FMCSA:

In early February 2016, FMCSA investigators stated that they visited J and J Transportation to conduct a compliance review. The company refused, or was unable, to produce:

  • Vehicle maintenance records, including servicing schedules, or documentation otherwise indicating that the company had a vehicle maintenance program;
  • Drivers’ vehicle inspection reports or evidence that drivers undertook federally required pre-trip and post-trip safety inspections;
  • Evidence that defects identified in past roadside inspections had been corrected – before allowing that particular vehicle to be dispatched again;
  • Records for a majority of its drivers specially addressing driver qualification documentation, leading J and J Transportation to dispatch multiple drivers that possessed suspended or invalid commercial driver’s licenses (CDL);
  • Medical examiner’s certificates for its drivers;
  • Complete records-of-duty status for its drivers or supporting documents, such as fuel and toll receipts; and
  • Records for a majority of its driver documenting that they underwent mandatory pre-employment controlled substances tests – before performing a safety-sensitive function including operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Deadly Crash Incident:

On December 4, 2015, authorities say a commercial truck operated by J and J Transportation was involved in a single vehicle crash, fatally injuring the driver. The post-crash investigation by the New York State Police found multiple violations by the driver of federal hours-of-service regulations. The same driver had been cited for false records of duty status during roadside inspections that occurred on October 20, 2015 and again on December 2, 2015.

During the compliance investigation, J and J Transportation was unable to show that it had taken any subsequent action following the two roadside inspections to ensure that the driver – and all its drivers – complied with federal hours-of-service and records of duty status regulations.

According to the FMCSA, J and J Transportation’s continued use of unsafe vehicles and its failure to adequately oversee its drivers to ensure compliance with federal safety regulations substantially increases the likelihood of serious harm to its drivers and to the motoring public.

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Wyoming Trucking Company Order to Shut Down Following Repeated Violations

Pictured: Screenshot from Bar D Bar’s website

Pictured: Screenshot from Bar D Bar’s website

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that it has ordered Gillette, Wyoming-based Bar D Bar Trucking, LLC, to close up shop.

According to the agency, it must cease all intrastate and interstate operations after a federal investigation found the carrier to pose an imminent hazard to public safety. Bar D Bar Trucking was served the federal order on March 11, 2016.

On March 8, 2016, Bar D Bar Trucking was subject to a federal compliance review investigation. FMCSA safety investigators stated that they found the company owner and operator, Gregory Davis, to be in violation of multiple federal safety regulations including:

  • Failing to conduct pre-employment background checks on drivers;
  • Failing to ensure drivers were qualified before dispatching them in commercial operations;
  • Failing to properly monitor drivers to ensure compliance with hours-of-service requirements;
  • Failing to conduct random drug and alcohol tests on drivers;
  • Using a driver who tested positive for controlled substance, and;
  • Failing to ensure that its vehicles were regularly inspected, maintained and repaired and that they met minimum safety standards.

“Bar D Bar Trucking LLC is a recognized leader on the local market and a growing company, and we’re proud of that fact,” reads the trucking company’s website. “The driving force behind our reputation is our employees, who have invested a lot of energy in the development of our business.”

The statement seems to almost contradict federal investigators’ recent findings. These investigators say they also found that Bar D Bar Trucking had continued to allow Gregory Davis to operate a commercial vehicle despite Davis not possessing a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) and subject to a lifetime CDL disqualification.

“Bar D Bar Trucking’s continued use of unsafe vehicles and its failure to adequately oversee its drivers to ensure compliance with federal safety regulations substantially increases the likelihood of serious harm to its drivers and to the motoring public,” read a statement by the FMCSA.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order may result in a penalty of up to $25,000, operating without operating authority may result in a fine of not less than $10,000, and operating without a USDOT number may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

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Police: Big Rig Crashes into House after Brakes Fail

Fatigue, drinking alcohol, and speeding are all major factors in motor vehicle crashes. However, many are also due to mechanical failures—one of the biggest being brake failure.

In fact, a recent study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that nearly 30% of all large truck crashes involved brake failure, brakes out of adjustment or other brake-related issues.

One big-rig driver knows about brake failure all too well. He recently suffered non-life-threatening injuries after California troopers say he crashed into an unoccupied house after his brakes failed him.

The driver — identified as Ulyssis Gonzales, 29, told authorities he tried to stop for a stop sign; however, after his brakes gave out, he plowed through a power pole and into a home.

“The entire truck was basically inside the house,” Officer Art Montiel told the Contra Costa Times, adding that the 18-wheeler overturned and spilled a load of dirt.

The crash reportedly knocked out power to more than 140 residents, said J.D. Guidi, a spokesman for Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

It’s not known when Gonzales last had his 18-wheeler inspected; however, it is required by the FMCSA once per year.

According to the agency, it is the responsibility of the motor carrier to ensure that all parts and accessories on commercial motor vehicles intended for use in interstate commerce for which they are responsible are maintained at, or promptly repaired to, the minimum standards set forth.

Fortunately, there were no injuries. This incident should service as a reminder of why it’s so crucial that commercial driver should properly inspect their vehicle often. It could save them a lot of grief in the long run and could save somebody’s life.

 

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Four Bus Companies Shutdown Following Multi-State Strike Force Investigation

Following a four-month, multi-state investigation, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that it has revoked the operating authority registration of four commercial bus companies for “willfully failing to comply with federal safety regulations.”

Specifically, each of the four passenger carriers was found to have intentionally provided a misleading and/or a false physical address as its principal place of business.

Federal safety regulations prohibit a registered motor carrier from falsely designating its physical address/principal place of business when the motor carrier is not engaged in business operations related to the commercial transportation of persons or property at that location.

The Companies Shutdown:

The bus companies who had their USDOT operating authority registration revoked are:

  • Homewood, Alabama-based AKAI LLC, USDOT No. 2444704
  • Norcross, Georgia-based Luxury Express Bus Company LLC, USDOT No. 2442687
  • Waltham, Massachusetts-based Magnum Coach Lines, LLC, USDOT No. 2489680
  • Raleigh, North Carolina-based Hermes Luxury Coach LTD, USDOT No. 2430448

A motor carrier found to be operating without possessing valid USDOT operating authority may be liable for federal civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation.

Safety Tips for Passengers:

Travelers planning a bus trip are also encouraged to think safety first before buying a ticket or chartering a bus by using FMCSA’s multilingual passenger carrier safety checklist by clicking here.

The FMCSA’s SaferBus mobile app also gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company’s safety record before buying a ticket or booking group travel. The app, available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phone users, can be downloaded for free by visiting FMCSA’s “Look Before You Book” webpage at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.

The agency urges consumers and whistleblowers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle, or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA’s consumer complaint website.

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Public Input Sought on how Sleep Apnea Impacts Commercial Drivers

It is estimated that 22 million men and women could be suffering from undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep.

That’s why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced that it’s seeking public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating, and treating rail workers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers for OSA.

“It is imperative for everyone’s safety that commercial motor vehicle drivers and train operators be fully focused and immediately responsive at all times,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “DOT strongly encourages comment from the public on how to best respond to this national health and transportation safety issue.”

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.

Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.

As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

How it impacts driving:

Undiagnosed or inadequately treated moderate to severe OSA can cause unintended sleep episodes and deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, memory, and the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive service.

For individuals with OSA, eight hours of sleep can be less refreshing than four hours of ordinary, uninterrupted sleep, according to a study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The size and scope of the potential problem means that OSA presents a critical safety issue for all modes and operations in the transportation industry.

Public input details:

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is also seeking public input. The joint Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) is the first step as both agencies consider whether to propose requirements specifically on OSA. FRA and FMCSA will host three public listening sessions to gather input on OSA in Washington, DC, Chicago, and Los Angeles. For more details, click here.

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FMCSA: California Truck Driver Tests Positive for Meth, Ordered to Stop Driving

Pictured: Crystal Meth Rock (Via Wikimedia Commons)

Pictured: Crystal Meth Rock (Via Wikimedia Commons)

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared California-licensed truck driver Edward Herbert Crane to be an imminent hazard to public safety and has ordered him not to operate any commercial motor vehicles in interstate commerce. Crane was served the federal order on February 9, 2016.

In May 2015, an FMCSA investigation revealed that Crane, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, was medically unqualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle. During the investigation, it was found that Crane had tested positive for the use of prohibited controlled substances, amphetamines or methamphetamines, on three separate occasions since 2012.

Additionally, the results of a test that was still pending during the investigation received by the carrier on May 12, 2015, subsequently was positive for methamphetamines.

In June 2015, Crane was disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by order of FMCSA.

Since his first positive controlled substances test in 2012, Crane has been evaluated by multiple substance abuse professionals; however, he failed to comply with the follow-up testing requirements and he failed to obtain a certificate of completion from any substance abuse program provider.

On January 8, 2016, Crane lost control of the commercial vehicle he was operating resulting in the vehicle leaving the highway, striking a concrete barrier and overturning as it was reentering the roadway. Crane was cited by local law enforcement officers for failing to maintain control of his vehicle.

Following the crash, Crane was instructed by his employer to undergo drug and alcohol testing and was provided with the address of a facility. Crane has failed to report to this facility and has refused to submit to a post-crash drug and alcohol test.

Violating an imminent hazard out-of-service order by a CDL holder may result in civil penalties of not less than $2,750 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than 180 days for a first offense. A second offense may result in civil penalties of not less than $5,500 and disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle for not less than two years.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the imminent hazard out-of-service order may also result in criminal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Troopers: FedEx Driver Wrecks after Falling Asleep in Mississippi

Via FedEx

Via FedEx

Lack of sleep yet making the conscious decision to get behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous things you can do as a driver. Studies have shown that driving while sleepy is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated.

We’ve seen it time and time again where crashes could have been prevented had the driver had adequate sleep. A recent crash in Jackson, Mississippi proves this point well.

According to WTVM-TV, an 18 wheeler for FedEx overturned recently, causing traffic to back up until the wreck could be cleared.

Troopers say the driver of the semi wrecked after falling asleep behind the wheel. The driver, whose name hasn’t been released, suffered only minor injuries. Fortunately, no one else was involved.

What the Research Says

According for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving is a major problem in the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2013. Drowsiness:

  • Makes drivers less able to pay attention to the road.
  • Slows reaction time if you have to brake or steer suddenly.
  • Affects a driver’s ability to make good decisions.

Final Thought

Now it’s not known if this FedEx driver was in compliance with the government’s HOS rules. We can only assume. With that said, he’s very lucky that no one else was injured during the accident.

The moral of the lesson is simple. Just as you wouldn’t drink behind the wheel, driving while drowsy is also just as potentially deadly. It’s just not worth the risk.

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