Friday, November 28, 2014

Motorway Killer Still Stalks Road Haulage Drivers as Freight Association Joins Fight

Ignorance and Denial Continues to Contribute to Pointless Slaughter
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – As many regular readers know there is a silent killer which stalks the road haulage driving community, not a hitchhiker with a hidden blade but something much closer to home and a subject we have written numerous articles on over the past few years, having had an unpleasantly close relationship with the matter in hand. Now the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has put its not inconsiderable weight behind trying to eliminate this problem.

We refer to sleep apnoea, a condition which HGV and PSV drivers are particularly prone to, yet something which, if recognised, can be cured relatively easily. Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is a treatable condition that is particularly prevalent among haulage drivers. However without treatment, driving with OSAS can make the chance of having a road traffic accident between 3 and 9 times more likely and increase the severity of the accident. It can also greatly reduce quality of life, lead to other health problems, and even impact on life expectancy.

Put simply the interruption of normal breathing during sleep can start to kill off brain cells, symptoms usually, but not always, include heavy snoring, just as sufferers are often, but not exclusively, overweight. The condition leads to drivers ‘nodding off’ during a normal days work, often with fatal consequences. Anyone who fears they may suffer from the condition might like to read our previous articles simply by typing sleep apnoea into the News Search box at the head of the page.

Following a collaboration between the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the OSA Partnership Group a partial Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) module has been developed and will be available free of charge to both FTA and non-FTA members. The training module has been specifically designed to help make more HGV drivers aware of the symptoms of sleep apnoea and the consequences of not seeking treatment. The FTA has worked with the OSA Partnership Group to develop a training session that had an impact on drivers, as well as one that provides flexibility; lasting approximately an hour and a half the presentation materials have been designed to fit into any Driver CPC training module. Jacqui Hillhouse, Training Product Development Manager at FTA said:

"As a leading Driver CPC training provider, FTA recognises the importance of raising awareness of any condition that could impact on driver safety. This training session focuses on sleep apnoea and can be included within Driver CPC training outlining the symptoms and treatment that HGV drivers should be aware of. FTA provides the training materials for this module free of charge, not just to our own members but to the wider population in order to make as many drivers as possible aware of the implications of untreated OSAS."

The UK government says around 5% of the population are affected by sleep apnoea and publishes a list of symptoms and relevant information as does the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association (SATA). The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has stated that as many as a third of US truckers may have the condition. Professor John Stradling from the OSA Partnership Group, has spent his career working with sleep apnoea patients as a respiratory consultant in Oxford. He says:

“It is essential that we make drivers aware of the symptoms of sleep apnoea. It is a condition that can be very easily diagnosed and treated, and following this patients are able to lead normal lives. It is especially significant for HGV drivers as successful treatment will enable them to drive as safely as anyone without OSAS. We hope that the programme that we have developed with the FTA will allow drivers to recognise OSAS in themselves or others and to act upon this knowledge to seek treatment, and in doing so to improve dramatically the quality of their lives.”

In 2011 Canadian Trucking group Celadon settled a claim for $3.25 million with the widow of a car driver killed when rear ended by one of their vehicles driven by a man already dismissed from a previous company for refusing to undertake a sleep study. The settlement included an arrangement for Celadon to educate all drivers, explaining that sleep apnoea does not disqualify them from working if treated.

Our own staff can vouch for the efficacy of modern treatments for the problem such as C-PaP and Bi-PaP machines and drivers should not be concerned in reporting typical symptoms, basically falling asleep given the slightest chance during the day, as, if treated, OSAS won’t cause you to lose your licence. However falling asleep at the wheel may cost not only a licence but a life. You can find out more about the FTA Driver CPC training course, which includes the OSA module, here. The information includes a video spelling out the tragedy which this condition can engender, all for the sake of a few simple tests.

Photo: The remains of John Lindsay’s car in which he was killed in 2010 by a driver suffering from sleep apnoea. A foundation to promote awareness of the problem was established following his tragic death.