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Casi uno de cada tres conductores de camiones comerciales padece de apnea del sueño

For many, there is always apprehension when a semi-truck, commonly known as an 18-wheeler, speeds by you on the highway. Talk about white knuckle driving. With your children in tow, you grab the steering wheel tightly as the commercial vehicle nearly veers into your lane at 65 miles per hour, before jetting by.

What’s even more concerning, according to a recent study, is almost one out of three commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea which affects their alertness and performance.

“Commercial trucks are critical to our economy but every year accidents involving them result in thousands of Americans killed or being severely injured,” said Candice Bond, an attorney with Bond Sanchez-Gordon. “Commercial drivers with untreated sleep apnea are more likely to be involved in a fatigue-related crash.” 

These vehicles can legally weigh up to 80,000 pounds and if negligently driven or maintained can become a destructive force on roads and highways. 

“The force of a fully loaded tractor trailer hitting a passenger vehicle at highway speed can easily kill or severely injure anyone inside,” Bond said. “Even if the truck is on a side road going at a moderate speed the impact with a smaller vehicle can be devastating so with that power comes the responsibility to be as safe as possible.” 

There are about 5.6 million tractor trailers registered for use in the United States and thousands of Americans are killed in accidents involving heavy trucks and tens of thousands more are injured each year. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), there were 4,311 large trucks and busses involved in fatal accidents in the U.S. in 2015, the last year for which statistics are available. That is a 26 percent increase from 2009. 

The study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, which FMCSA and the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations sponsored, concluded that almost one-third (28 percent) of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea. Sleep apnea affects a driver’s sleep and their daytime alertness and performance. Untreated sleep apnea can make it difficult for them to stay awake and react quickly while driving. According to FMSCA, studies conclude that people with untreated sleep apnea have an increased risk of being involved in a fatigue-related motor vehicle crash. 

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), considered a requirement that would require truck drivers to be tested for sleep apnea, but later scraped the idea. Instead, the onus remains on trucking companies to test drivers for this potentially dangerous condition. 

“When trucking companies overwork their drivers and allow fatigued drivers to get behind of the wheel of these big rigs and travel on the roads where our families are we must hold them accountable for all the damages they cause,” Bond said. “Sharing the road with tractor trailers is a scary proposition. But it’s like everything else: The more dangerous something is, the safer we must make it.”

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