Cover story: Medically Certified
Webb estimates the doctor visits the state audit of his medical certification required, including a paperwork error by the state that delayed his medical recertification and suspended it for a couple of days in February, amounted to at least five days of downtime.
Privacy issues are also a concern for Webb. “We’re battling hours of service issues, CSA,” he says. “When the smoke clears from that, this is going to be the next thing coming down the pike. There are a lot of people with CPAP machines out there. Imagine getting pulled by the DOT cop, and he asks for your medical card. And say it will show where you’re using a CPAP machine. He takes that machine back to his car and downloads data from the machine and makes you medically disqualified right there.”
Apnea Treatment Benefits
Since beginning apnea treatment, Prime Inc.-leased driver Mike Bartruff has lost 35 pounds, down from 270, in a few short months, “and my blood pressure’s getting better,” he says. “I’m on a one-year renewal of my medical card for now, because I had high blood pressure and I was on medication for it, but because of the CPAP and what I’ve been doing, I don’t see that being a factor in my next physical.” Bartruff reports sleeping better since he’s grown accustomed to the device. “I’ve got more energy throughout the day. I walk every day, 35-45 minutes at a time.”
Driver Ed Webb says CPAP treatment has changed his life, echoing other sleep-apnea sufferers whose common refrain is that getting effective, restful sleep boosted their daytime energy levels greatly. “When I had my sleep test done, I could tell the difference right off the bat,” he says. “The next day I felt like superman. I just felt great.”
For a video talk with Webb, visit www.truckersnews.com.
The Second Opinion on Sleep Apnea
During your routine DOT physical, physicians should be screening for sleep apnea. Different physicians have different screening criteria, as do different trucking companies, such as a certain body mass index (BMI) measurement, neck size and the presence of other conditions. Considering the potential cost, getting a second opinion about whether a sleep study is needed in your case is legal and may be appropriate.
But, notes Orion’s Dr. John Abraham, “once you’ve had a sleep study that shows you have sleep apnea, there’s not a lot of gray area there.” Failure to indicate that you’ve tested positive, as it were, on your medical long form would constitute falsifying documents.
From drivers to industry observers, many suggest the health-care industry is “jumping in with both feet” to diagnose and treat the disorder, as owner-operator Bob Harper, leased to Dana Transport, puts it.
Transport safety consultant Rick Gobbell says, “Some of these doctors currently doing medical examinations — they’ve got a lot of them referring drivers to sleep doctors, seeing a new cash opportunity.”
Proposed Registry of Certified Medical Examiners
By Max Kvidera
To help reduce the number of highway accidents caused by truckers with disqualifying medical problems, FMCSA has proposed a National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners (NRCME). The FMCSA contends that improper medical certification of truck drivers has contributed to fatal and serious injury accidents.