Landmark study reveals both lives and loads are safer with sleep apnea treatment program
GREEN BAY, Wis. (March 28, 2016) – According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driving drowsy makes lapses of attention more likely to occur, which can result in deadly crashes. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleeping disorder that causes obstruction in the upper airway, which results in paused breathing, decreased restorative sleep and frequent drowsiness.
Schneider, a premier provider of transportation, logistics and intermodal services, long ago opened its eyes to this serious but treatable medical condition. In 2006, Schneider became the first large-scale employer with a program to screen, diagnose and monitor OSA treatment adherence in the U.S. Today, the results of a comprehensive study led by the University of Minnesota, Morris, with contributions from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, proves that this program is having a dramatic and positive impact on the safety of North American roads.
The study, which was recently accepted for publication in the journal, Sleep, involved over 1,600 Schneider drivers with OSA, matched with an equal number of control drivers with comparable job experience and tenure. OSA patients were grouped by treatment adherence and objectively monitored. Drivers received auto-adjusting positive airway pressure (APAP) treatment through a machine that could be used both at home and in the truck sleeper berth while on the road.
The results of this study revealed that the rate of serious, preventable crashes was five times higher among truck drivers with OSA who did not adhere to Schneider’s sleep apnea treatment program, compared with matched controls. In contrast, the crash rate of drivers with sleep apnea who were fully or partially adherent with Schneider’s treatment was statistically similar to controls.
“If we look at 1,000 truck drivers each working for a year, the drivers with obstructive sleep apnea left untreated would have 70 preventable truck crashes, compared to 14 crashes experienced by both a control group and by drivers with sleep apnea who adhered to treatment,” said Stephen Burks, lead author of the research article and professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota, Morris.
Current federal regulations do not require carriers to screen or treat drivers for sleep apnea, largely due to limited data from commercial drivers to date. However, studies show that individuals with untreated sleep apnea are at a higher risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and premature death. Seeing the negative impact sleep apnea was having on not only the safety of other motorists on the road, but also its drivers’ health, Schneider decided to do something about it.
Schneider’s sleep apnea program was developed with input from sleep experts and was the first of its kind in the transportation industry. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) awarded the company a Healthy Sleep Community Award for its groundbreaking OSA program in 2007 – just a year after the program’s launch. NSF continues to refer inquirers to Schneider as a leading example of implementation of an OSA program.
“At Schneider, we’re driven by our number one core value of Safety First and Always,” said Tom DiSalvi, Schneider’s vice president of safety and loss prevention. “When you live and breathe that philosophy like we do, screening and treating drivers with sleep apnea is just the right thing to do. Clearly it makes our roads safer for both professional drivers and the motoring public, but the decreased risk of various other diseases and the overall feeling of being more rested and energized also enhance the quality of life for drivers.”
Schneider requires all new driver employees to be screened for sleep apnea. The transportation company works with drivers to be tested at clinics across North America. Those diagnosed with the disorder have the cost of treatment covered with no out of pocket expense through the company’s health insurance program.
“Given that the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and premature death are similarly increased in people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea, regulatory agencies worldwide owe it to truck drivers and to the motorists who share the road with them to require objective screening, diagnostic testing and treatment adherence monitoring for all commercial drivers,” added study co-author Charles A. Czeisler, Ph.D., M.D., F.R.C.P., chief of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
The research team, led by Dr. Burks at the University of Minnesota, Morris, included biostatistician Jon Anderson, Ph.D., and several research students. The team also received interpretative and medical writing assistance from Dr. Stefanos N. Kales of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Dr. Mark Berger of Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics in Houston, Texas; Jeffrey S. Hickman, Ph.D., and Erin Mabry, Ph.D., of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and Dr. Atul Malhotra of the University of California, San Diego.
Funding for the Truckers & Turnover Project was provided by Schneider, the University of Minnesota, Morris, and the Roadway Safety Institute, which is the Region 5 University Transportation Center of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Additional funding for the research analysis was provided by the MacArthur Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, Harvard Catalyst/Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center of Harvard University and by the National Surface Transportation Safety Center for Excellence at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
The accepted manuscript was posted on the website of the journal, Sleep, on March 21, 2016.
Schneider is the premier provider of truckload, intermodal and logistics services. Offering the broadest portfolio in the industry, Schneider’s solutions include Regional, Long-Haul, Expedited, Dedicated, Bulk, Intermodal, Brokerage, Cross-Dock Logistics, Supply Chain Management and Port Logistics.
A $4 billion company, Schneider has been delivering superior customer experiences and safely getting it done for 80 years. For more information about Schneider, visit www.schneider.com or follow on Twitter: @WeAreSchneider.