SleepSafe Drivers, Inc., a provider of sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment programs for truck fleet operations, has announced positive preliminary results from a clinical trial focused on testing and treating truck drivers suffering with sleep apnea. The clinical trial is a collaborative effort between J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc., SleepSafe Drivers, Inc., and Fusion Sleep LLC, a provider of clinical sleep medicine services to patients and employers.

According to SleepSafe Drivers, J.B. Hunt is now accelerating the pace of the trial and expects to continue expanding the program over time. The goal of the trial, which is backed by an independent review board, is to improve the health and safety of drivers. The trial results will also document any cost savings from reduced medical expenses and lower accidents as a consequence of the program.

“We are committed to enhancing the safety and health of our drivers, and SleepSafe Drivers is helping us get that done," said Greer Woodruff, sr. vp of corporate safety & security at J.B. Hunt. "One of our Million Mile drivers recently told us that he felt the sleep apnea program had literally saved his life. After starting APAP [Autosetting Positive Airway Pressure] therapy, that driver has lost 115 pounds, knocked out his challenging and chronic daytime fatigue, and was able to begin exercising again for the first time in years. There is absolutely no doubt that he is healthier and safer as a result of the program.”

SleepSafe Drivers president, Dana Voien, told Fleet Owner that he believes the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and other interested parties want to see independent research and papers prepared on this subject. “We have been doing clinical audits all along the way,” Voien said. “We hope to bring a scientific rigor to this that addresses the facts about sleep apnea and its diagnosis and treatment.”

According to Voien, sleep apnea affects about 6% to 12% of the adult male population, but 28% to 30% of truck drivers, a factor he ties to the unusually high obesity rate among drivers. In addition to being a potential safety risk on the highway, drivers with sleep apnea face a long list of increased health risks, he noted, including hypertension, diabetes, memory loss, chronic fatigue, obesity, and a doubling of the chance of heart attack and stroke.

“You know how you feel when you haven’t been able to sleep well for a night or two,” Voien said. “People with sleep apnea never get a good night’s sleep. They see a significant improvement [in how they feel] after only one or two nights of treatment.”

What sets SleepSafe Drivers apart, according to Voien, is the company’s ability to handle an entire sleep apnea program for a fleet, from screening through compliance monitoring and verification. “We can handle driver screening, mobile testing of high-likelihood drivers for sleep apnea, daily treatment and monitoring, and program compliance verification,” he noted. “We stick with drivers being treated.”

When asked why sleep apnea is only now getting so much attention among truck fleets, Voien pointed to relatively recent improvements in diagnosis and treatment. “Now routine monitoring is really possible,” he said. “That is so important; it changes how treatment can function at the fleet level.

“The equipment has also dramatically improved, making it easier for mobile workers to use,” he continued. “Ten years ago, [treatment] machines were big and loud, now they are about the size of half a loaf of bread and nearly silent. The masks are also much more comfortable to wear at night and most insurance companies will now pay for replacement of masks every six months and the APAP devices every five years.”