It isn’t uncommon for commercial truck drivers to experience a condition called obstructive sleep apnea. Drivers who have the condition are five times more likely to be in an otherwise preventable crash compared to those who have sought treatment for it. In addition to putting their own health and safety at risk, they could be putting other North Carolina road users at risk as well.
Generally speaking, a passenger vehicle will suffer more damage than a commercial vehicle when the two collide. This is because commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. One Minnesota truck driver who had sleep apnea was taken into custody for killing another person after blacking out while operating his vehicle. Despite the risks that sleep apnea can pose, there is no federal mandate to get screened for the condition. Groups such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association oppose a formal mandate. However, a driver’s doctor can decide if a screening is necessary.
If left untreated, sleep apnea could cause other health problems such as high blood pressure and memory problems. It is estimated that up to 28% of nonfarm commercial truck drivers have some form of the condition. Drivers may be able to treat sleep apnea through the use of a CPAP machine that forces the throat to stay open while a person rests.
In the event that truck driver negligence causes an accident to occur, that driver could be responsible for paying damages that an accident victim incurs. In some cases, multiple parties may be liable such as the truck driver’s employer or the company that manufactured the vehicle. Injured victims may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages and lost future earnings in a settlement or by taking a case to trial.