Regulatory laws can be confusing, so this post is going to discuss whether or not sleep apnea testing is part of the DOT Physical needed to get commercial driver’s license (CDL). Sleep apnea is a common health problem for many, but truck drivers are becoming more and more concerned that a sleep apnea diagnosis will prevent them from doing their job based on a “new law” by the Department of Transportation (DOT). There is a lot of gray area when figuring out what the real requirements are, so let’s get some information straight.
What exactly is the new DOT law?
Actually, there is no law requiring truck drivers to be specifically screened for sleep apnea. This requirement was proposed as a new law, but the Trump administration cut regulations for many industries and this sleep apnea testing law was ultimately scrapped. But a medical examination is required in order to approve a driver for their CDL. This is where many get confused.
It is up to your medical examiner to determine your potential risk for sleep apnea. If the examiner determines that you are at high risk for sleep apnea based on reported symptoms or an elevated Body Mass Index (BMI), they can insist you receive sleep apnea testing. If you are diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea, it means you are no longer able to safely drive and will have your CDL suspended until you seek treatment to manage the condition.
What is sleep apnea and why do I need to be tested for it?
Sleep apnea is a condition that prevents you from getting the proper air you need to remain in deep sleep. The average adult experiences about 5 apnea events per hour, but anything over 5 an hour is cause for alarm. While the mechanics of sleep apnea are fairly straightforward, many people don’t understand the frightening side effects and future medical conditions that sleep apnea can put you at risk for. Because sleep apnea prevents you from getting restorative, healthy sleep on a regular basis, it can put you at increased risk for conditions like heart attack, heart failure, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and even cancer. Not to mention excessive fatigue that can influence your ability to drive.
Because of the incredible risks of untreated sleep apnea, it is imperative that you undergo a home sleep test to see if your diagnosis requires treatment.
Can I Lose My CDL Because of Sleep Apnea?
That is completely up to you. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea and refuse treatment or refuse to use the treatments given to you, then yes, you can be denied a CDL. However, plenty of truck drivers are able to perform their jobs perfectly even with severe sleep apnea so long as it’s treated. If you choose not to treat your condition, it is very possible that you will not be cleared by your examiner to resume regular truck driving. If you are diagnosed with moderate to severe sleep apnea, and your medical examiner reports that you are managing your condition, you can regain current CDL status and resume driving. Ensuring you are managing your sleep apnea is imperative for your own safety and the safety of those around you.
Receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis can be challenging for anyone, especially if you fear that it will put your livelihood at risk. But the condition is easily managed by an automatic positive airway pressure machine (AutoPAP) or a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP). Simply wear the mask while you sleep to prevent airway obstructions and start getting the healthy, restorative sleep you need to be alert and aware on the roads.