Sleep apnoea the big risk for drivers says researcher

Forty percent of drivers struggle to stay awake, according to research results presented at the Australian Trucking Convention

Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi | May 18, 2012

Forty percent of drivers struggle to stay awake, according to research results presented at today’s Australian Trucking Convention.

Sleep apnoea, which is a condition where a person has difficulty breathing while asleep, leads to daytime sleepiness, fatigue and poor reaction times, George Institute for Global Health researcher Lisa Sharwood says.

She has visited 25 truck stops across NSW and Western Australia, interviewing 517 drivers who were on rest breaks and had travelled more than 200 kilometres.

They were sent home with breathing monitors to test their sleep apnoea levels, with 12 percent turning positive.

Forty percent struggle staying awake despite managing to have eight hours of sleep on their non-working days, and 6.7 hours whilst on shift.

Half of them smoke a pack of cigarettes each day and have a poor diet and are overweight.

Sharwood is proposing a national regulated concordance for medical testing of commercial vehicle drivers, saying employers need to be supportive of drivers as one driver who tested positive to sleep apnoea approached his employer about the results but was fired.

"They showed the employer the test hoping for some assistance trying to do the right thing and were told to take a walk," Sharwood says.

"There is a problem and there needs to be a regulatory requirement that drivers get assistance in identifying this disorder and their health risks at large.

"If somebody is not taking responsibility for the health of drivers then everybody at the road is at risk."

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