You may (or may not) remember a few years ago when the trucking industry was up in arms about new potential rules requiring truck drivers be screened for sleep apnea. Lobbying groups got the Department of Transportation (DOT) to put the rule on hold pending more study and/or legislation. Then the Trump administration decided to throw out the rule entirely.
For the DOT, the primary issue was safety. Truckers with untreated sleep apnea are five times more likely to get in an accident. Treating sleep apnea reduces that risk down to normal. However, truckers and trucking companies objected to the expense of screening truckers for sleep apnea and treating their condition. Now it turns out the joke’s on them: treating sleep apnea doesn’t cost money, it SAVES money for trucking companies, an estimated $441 per month per driver. Talk about a punchline!
Case Study of a Large, Privately Insured Trucking Company
The new study is based on data from Schneider National, the fourth largest trucking company in the US, with over $4 billion in net revenue each year. Schneider is self-insured, which means that they basically administer their own insurance company for their employees, paying medical costs directly to providers.
Schneider decided to screen its drivers for sleep apnea, and if any driver was diagnosed with sleep apnea, they were given a CPAP machine. Use of the machine was mandatory to maintaining employment.
They compared the medical costs of 100 drivers who were diagnosed with sleep apnea and treated, then compared them to the medical costs of 100 drivers who screening said likely had sleep apnea, but hadn’t actually been diagnosed and treated yet. They found that the treated drivers had much lower medical costs than those who were untreated. Although some drivers were lost over the course of the study, retention was better among the treated drivers than the untreated drivers.
Savings Likely Even Greater
Researchers noted that one of the limitations of their study is that it couldn’t track all related costs that might have been reduced by sleep apnea treatment. The study only looked at direct medical costs, and didn’t look at lost work days, accidents, or other potential costs. If these could be included, the benefit would likely be much greater.
Can’t Say We’re Surprised
We applaud the findings of this study, though we are not at all surprised by them. In fact, it tracks very closely with previous findings. In fact, we remember how Union Pacific saved nearly $5 million just by educating its employees about sleep apnea.
Researchers in this study note that insurance companies working with trucking companies would likely see similar benefits, and that trucking companies should see this as reassurance that sleep apnea screening and treatment would not be expensive.
We want to add, however, that CPAP is not the only way for truckers to treat their sleep apnea. Oral appliances can help drivers who have trouble with sleep apnea, and with compliance tracking, they are just as effective as CPAP for purposes of treatment and monitoring.
If truckers or trucking companies want to learn more about this alternative to CPAP, they can call (402) 493-4175 today for a consultation with leading sleep dentist Dr. Roger Roubal at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha.