In 2001, Prime Inc. set out to learn all it could about sleep disorders and fatigued driving, two critical issues facing the trucking industry. As part of the effort, Prime invited Dr. William C. Dement, the “father of sleep medicine,” to visit the company and conduct a seminar involving a group of Prime and CFI drivers.
From Dr. Dement, we learned about Obstructive Sleep Apnea and some of the telltale signs and symptoms of the sleeping disorder that affects more than 20 million Americans, including many drivers. Dr. Dement even demonstrated the “choking” or gasping for breath sounds associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
The reaction from drivers was very interesting; they were engaged and wanted to know more. Several members of the group, including myself, volunteered to undergo a sleep test or PSG (polysomnogram) at a local medical center that had a sleep lab and a sleep specialist. Soon our group of drivers became the lab’s best customers.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is not an overly complicated disease. In many cases, it can be easily treated with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) or blower to aid breathing while asleep. After a period of adjustment, the benefits come quickly: more energy, less daytime drowsiness, lower blood pressure, loss of weight and most important of all, a safer driver.
In 2009, Prime opened its own sleep lab at our Training Center and partnered with a vendor who helped us reduce the down time for treatment from one week to less than 15 hours. The results have been gratifying for the company as well as the drivers. You know the effort and cost of the program is well worth it every time a driver looks you in the eye and says, “You saved my life. I feel better than I have in years.”
Obstructive Sleep Apnea has been the subject of considerable misinformation and misunderstanding, which is why educating our drivers about this disorder is so important. At Prime, we feel we have an obligation to our drivers to take a proactive role in promoting better health.
Don Lacy is the Director of Safety at Prime Inc.
Posted on December 22, 2010
by Don Lacy