Ferro: Many ways to cut fatigue in crashes

| May 12, 2010
About 30 percent of drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro said a widespread approach is needed to reduce fatigue-related crashes in the trucking industry, as she addressed the Sleep Apnea & Trucking Conference last night, May 11, in Baltimore.

“There is no silver bullet … but what we need to strive for is silver buckshot,” Ferro said. She said this could be accomplished through research, programs, events, education, and targeted outreach and intervention.

According to FMCSA research, around 30 percent of drivers suffer from mild to severe sleep apnea. Ferro said the challenge for FMCSA along with industry leaders is “to provide affordable and implementable solutions for the industry at large,” including small fleet owners and owner-operators who “can’t always leverage the economies of scale that large carriers can.”

National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Christopher A. Hart said that while fatigue and sleep apnea are major problems facing the trucking industry, higher awareness and better ways to diagnose and treat the disorders will ensure that “most everyone treated will return to service.” He said the NTSB made recommendations to FMCSA and other transportation regulatory bodies to implement a program to identify people who are at high risk of obstructive sleep apnea and develop guidance for drivers, employers and physicians.

Hart also said he believes FMCSA will incorporate new sleep disorder suggestions into a soon-to-be-released online medical examiner handbook, complete a revised examination report form by September to include the assessment of sleep disorders and publish a best practices guide for examiners.

The evening concluded with the awarding of the Truck Safety Coalition’s first safety award to Don Osterberg, Schneider National senior vice president of safety, security and driver training. According to award presenter Jeffrey Burns of the Truck Safety Coalition, in 2009, Schneider reported no preventable accidents related to fatigue.

The Sleep Apnea & Trucking Conference is presented by the American Sleep Apnea Association and co-sponsored by the American Trucking Associations and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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