OOIDA’s new NCRME survey; Benefits of apnea treatment for one operator

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Following his reading of the ongoing series on sleep apnea I wrote for Overdrive‘s current, September issue, independent owner-operator Joe Bielucki (regular readers may remember him from this piece) wrote in to share his own experience with the condition. Bielucki’s been treated for a borderline case of sleep apnea for about two years now, he says. It all started when he did what advocates like driver Bob Stanton and others recommend for those who suspect they may have the condition. “I went for preemptive screening two years ago,” Bielucki says, “when the rumors of some regulation changes were starting to swirl.”

“As you can see,” notes Joe Bielucki of in-lab sleep studies, “the testing is a little invasive but not unbearable.” In this picture from a couple years ago, prior to sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, Bielucki weighed nearly 300 pounds.“As you can see,” notes Joe Bielucki of in-lab sleep studies, “the testing is a little invasive but not unbearable.” In this picture from a couple years ago, prior to sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, Bielucki weighed nearly 300 pounds.

It wasn’t just those rumors that sent him in, though: “I was tired in the afternoon and grouchy at times,” he says. “I was diagnosed with borderline apnea and given a CPAP machine.” Bielucki doesn’t wear the full mask, but rather what he describes as a “small headband with a small nasal strip with two air cushions for each nostril.” 

End result: “I sleep great,” he says, and his afternoon energy levels improved — “more energy for chaining and tarping steel….”

His health continues to improve — since beginning treatment, he’s lost around 40 pounds, dropping from 295 to around 250. “Getting myself moving has helped my work now as well. I get going earlier most days, and the reward is a couple extra loads here and there for being able to hustle it up a little.”

Bielucki and his dog, Jake (aka “the Jakester”), in tarping and chaining trim — around 40 pounds or more lighter following successful apnea treatment.Bielucki and his dog, Jake (aka “the Jakester”), in tarping and chaining trim — around 40 pounds or more lighter following successful apnea treatment.

Following subsequent follow-ups with his sleep doctor, “my machine pressure has since been lowered to compensate for my weight loss,” Bielucki adds. But it’s not all about weight, in the end, as his sleep doc notes. “My lower jaw sits back a bit,” for one, and “other factors come in to play. Logic tells me if you’re in doubt, get tested. I get up most mornings before the alarm now and do really good on 6-7 hours. Amazing. I was sleeping, horribly, 8-plus before and hitting snooze. I have yet to get a new physical under the new doc rules, but my sleep doc says he will be behind me; I have an SD card for proof [of CPAP use], and a travel bag for hotel stays on the rare layover that I do.” (Bielucki runs a daycab.) 

Others out there who’ve taken a similar — or different — tack to Bielucki on apnea, feel free to share your stories here. 

New survey on medical certification procedures from the OOIDA Foundation
Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association regulatory affairs director Scott Grenerth sent along a note late last week about difficulties many drivers are having following the new requirement to use DOT-certified medical examiners. Whether you have had your certification exam or not since May, when the National Registry of Certified Examiners became the go-to place for locating an authorized DOT medical examiner, and whether you’re an OOIDA member or not, the Foundation wants to hear from you in the survey — you can take it via this link. 

Grenerth notes results will help the association as it prepares to take truckers’ issues with the NCRME to FMCSA. Questions probe any changes drivers have seen in doc availability, exam cost and new tests/procedures following the NCRME’s launch in May. 

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