Truckers Can Get Tested for Sleep Apnea

Madeleine Jones
May 9, 2017

A recent ruling suggests that such required sleep apnea testing for truck drivers does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Truck drivers may be required to submit to sleep apnea tests even if a company requests the test based on the drivers being overweight or obese. Truck accident lawyers in Las Vegas sometimes represent victims of truck drivers who are fatigued or who have fallen asleep behind the wheel, and sleep apnea testing for truck drivers could help protect other people on the roads.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that disrupts breathing during sleep. When they are sleeping, sufferers have pauses in their breathing before normal breathing resumes. In obstructive sleep apnea, the breathing pathways collapse momentarily or are blocked. Those with the disorder may have as many as 30 such sleep interruptions in an hour. The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity or being overweight.

Because sleep apnea interrupts normal breathing patterns, sufferers do not get restful sleep. This may leave them feeling fatigued during their working hours and more susceptible to falling asleep, even behind the wheel. There are several symptoms of sleep apnea, including:

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day
  • Feeling sleep-deprived
  • Insomnia
  • Dry throat and mouth
  • Headaches

Problems with Sleep Apnea Testing

Studies have shown a link between sleep apnea and drowsy driving. Because drowsy driving is strongly correlated with an increased risk of accident involvement, some trucking companies request that their employees get tested for the condition. Unlike pilots, who are routinely required to undergo testing for sleep apnea, there is no regulation mandating such testing for truck drivers.

Some drivers have decried efforts by companies to test them for sleep apnea, arguing that doing so based on their being overweight or obese violates the anti-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this area of law remains unsettled, the Supreme Court of the United States recently declined to hear a case about such a company policy. This allowed a lower-court ruling to stand in which the court held that truck companies may ask their employees to be tested for sleep apnea without violating the ADA.

The lower-court ruling originally came in response to a case that was filed by a truck driver whose body mass index was 35 or higher. Because of his BMI, his trucking carrier required him to get tested for sleep apnea. The man sued, arguing that the mandate was discriminatory because it was based on his disability of obesity; other similarly situated drivers who were not obese were not required to undergo testing. The man appealed the lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. The lower court’s ruling was allowed to stand.

More Testing May Follow

Some trucking companies have been nervous about mandating sleep apnea testing for their truck drivers because of the possibility of being sued under the ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against workers because of their real or perceived disabilities. Since obesity is the most common cause of sleep apnea, trucking companies are more likely to ask obese drivers to get tested for the condition while not requiring the same of other drivers.

Drivers who have sleep apnea may be grounded until they get treatment for their condition, which may include the need to lose weight as well as surgery. Lawyers in Las Vegas recognize the concerns of truck drivers about sleep apnea testing as well as the benefits that it might offer..

While federal regulations do not mandate tracking or treating sleep apnea in truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration does state that drivers who have conditions such as sleep apnea which affect their ability to safely operate their trucks may not be allowed to drive until the condition has been successfully treated. If more companies decide to ask that drivers get tested for sleep apnea, it may result in truck drivers being diagnosed and treated for the condition while also leading to a decrease in the number of truck accidents caused by drowsy or fatigued truck drivers each year.

Personal injury lawyers in Las Vegas understand the dangers posed by drowsy truck drivers to others on the road. Because trucks can weigh up to 70,000 pounds and are very large, there are substantial physical forces at play when they are involved in accidents. These forces may cause others who are also involved in the accidents to be seriously injured or killed. Our Las Vegas accident attorneys represent people who have been injured by drowsy truck drivers, including some who might have sleep apnea. If an attorney suspects that a truck driver may have fallen asleep, the lawyer may request information about the circumstances during the discovery process.