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In May of 2010, John and Wanda Lindsay were stopped in traffic in a construction zone on Interstate 30 near Texarkana when a semi-truck crashed into the back of their vehicle. John died as a result of the accident and in the legal battles that emerged in the aftermath of the accident his widow has learned that the accident might have been avoidable: the driver of the truck that hit them had sleep apnea. Just this last summer, she set up the nonprofit “John Lindsay Foundation” to raise awareness of the dangers of sleep apnea in the commercial trucking industry.

Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder that causes brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that as many as 28% of commercial driver’s license holders suffer from sleep apnea. The problem for these drivers—and for the safety of our roads—is that sleep apnea deprives an individual of sleep during the night. This results in daytime drowsiness and a host of other symptoms, including falling asleep at inappropriate times and lack of concentration. For commercial truck drivers, where driver fatigue is already an issue even for healthy drivers, this can be dangerous and even deadly. At least one study has concluded that the impact of untreated sleep apnea on driver performance is comparable to the performance of drivers whose blood alcohol concentrations are above federal limits for driving commercial vehicles.

While there are some safety regulations in place, they likely do not go far enough to ensure safety on the road. While each state sets its own medical standards required for driving a commercial motor vehicle within the confines of the state, most have determined that moderate to severe sleep apnea is a disqualifying condition. That is the same standard that federal law sets for commercial vehicle drivers that operate in multiple states. Yet, part of the problem with sleep apnea is that those who suffer from it are often completely unaware that they have it. Thus, the National Transportation Safety Board ,in 2009, recommended that federal standards be strengthened to control the dangers of sleep apnea in commercial drivers. Among the recommendations were to:

  • Create a program to identify drivers at high risk for sleep apnea and special medical certification for those drivers identified.
  • Develop and provide guidance for commercial drivers, their employers and physicians regarding the identification and treatment of sleep apnea.

Being awake and alert when you’re behind the wheel of a car is a question of life and death. Sleep apnea can affect all drivers, making it a highway safety issue for all of us. But it is particularly concerning for commercial truck drivers who already drive long hours, suffer driver fatigue in general, and are behind the wheel of several-ton trucks that can cause severe accidents.


  1. Gravatar for JT

    Sleep apnea is just another money making process to pull cash out of a truckers pocket. Blaming sleep apnea as the sole cause of this accident is rediculous. There are many factors related to how much quality rest a truck driver will get. Heres just a few: HOS, no provisions in the hours of service to allow some drivers time to find a safe location to park, the road is crowded with trucks, just check out your local TA at 9pm, trucks have to make their own spots to park. Idling trucks, the cab climate controls on the market do not properly cool or heat a cab, some systems stop and start the engine thru out the night, waking a driver, and in some states idle laws prevents a driver from getting a good night sleep. Lack of available healthcare, drivers are unable to pull into a doctors office with their rigs to get care, or are unable to receive care when out of state due to the way this healthcare system works, when a driver is sick, he drives thru it, he doesn't lay on the couch and take some cold medicine. When he feels bad, he drives thru it because there is nowhere to go and noone will treat him. So go ahead and start the sleep apnea witch hunt and waste millions of dollars when its NOT the problem with the industry.

  2. Gravatar for RTM

    Sleep Apnea is not the problem but rather common fatigue is. In aviation, not one accident has been contributed to sleep apnea. In the case of the incident in Hawaii whereas both pilots fell asleep and the aircraft flew past the destination airport, the captain was diagnosed with sleep apnea but the first officer didn’t. Both were operating on the same schedule with about the same diet, however, sleep apnea was given the blame even though the first office that fell asleep didn’t have it. I’m worried this fixation on sleep apnea will make things worse rather than better.

  3. Gravatar for Truck Driver

    Sorry for you loss Mrs Lindsay

    Also a BIG THANK YOU for making a truck drivers life PURE HELL with your awareness program

    If they are going to single out people that PASS their PE because they are overweight or any other reason to make them take a sleep study then ALL truck drivers should be tested

    and have to pass the whole PE including the sleep study

    This is not fair 30 years in a truck and NEVER an accident except for hitting deer

    See how many people are going to want to work for trucking companies Then you will complain why is everything going up in cost.

    Maybe you should get a loan from the CPAP machine sales people and insurance companies

    Get A Life

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