On April 3, The U.S Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal filed by a former driver against the Nebraska-based Crete Carrier Corporation. The decision ruled in favor of Crete, one of the largest privately-owned trucking companies in the nation, saying that the company did not break any laws by requiring their drivers of certain body mass index (35 or higher) to undergo sleep apnea testing.
The Supreme Court Ruling
The issue with the company promoting sleep apnea testing for at-risk individuals arose in 2010 when a driver acquired a prescription from an unaffiliated physician assistant (the company partners with a certified sleep testing company) saying that he was cleared of any risk of sleep apnea and did not need a sleep study. The driver refused to undergo any further testing and was suspended from driving. He then refused to take another sleep test and was never reinstated. The driver subsequently sued Crete, claiming that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The case made its way to the federal court where officials upheld the decision that Crete was not in the wrong for requiring the sleep test.
The court ruled that the company had determined a proper risk assessment that was consistent with their business policy. The argument against testing was founded on the driver’s concerns that the company that Crete was contracted with to perform sleep testing also provided the treatment plan and CPAP machine if a driver was diagnosed.
We can learn a few things from this case. First, this decision could set a precedent for other courts, meaning carriers nationwide can install such apnea-screening programs and not be subject to court-ordered payouts. This could lead to a more efficient sleep apnea testing program that keeps drivers on the road and compliant with treatment.
“Forward-looking transportation companies are already aligning with sleep apnea service providers for safety,” says Michael Trufant, head of Industrial Markets at Aeroflow Healthcare. “Considering the increasing regulatory and compliance environment, more and more trucking companies are finding themselves better served when they partner with specialists like us.”
The dangers of driving with sleep apnea are prevalent, and companies are starting to advance the level of safety in the industry by requiring sleep apnea testing.
Health & Economic Benefits of Treating Apnea
A 2016 study by the University of Minnesota on untreated sleep apnea found that drivers had a fivefold greater risk of serious preventable crashes.
Additionally, another study found that drivers who were treated for OSA with either a CPAP or BiPAP machine exhibited lower total health plan costs, fewer missed workdays because of short-term disability, and a lower rate of short-term disability claims during the 24 months after the initiation of the treatment. This resulted in $6,000 worth of savings in total health plan and disability costs per treated driver.
Beyond the health benefits of properly treating apnea, there are economic incentives for employers to instate policies on testing. Every dollar spent on treating OSA saves $3.49 in collision damage costs. This means that the United States can save nearly $8 billion per year with CPAP treatment. These savings do not take into account the other economic, medical, and social benefits of treating OSAS, including decreased accidents at work, decreased hospitalization costs and the improved quality of life for drivers who often work long hours without pause.
How a Sleep Testing Program can Help
At Aeroflow Industrial, we are finding that “leading” transportation companies have seen the data, understand the safety value of sleep testing and are embracing our program as a standard part of their safety practices.
Even more, we are seeing more companies show interest in finding a sleep testing program that is effective and convenient for their employees. That’s exactly where Aeroflow’s Industrial program can help — we offer a range of programs where the company pays for everything, shares costs with drivers who normally file insurance, or refers their drivers to us where they will receive high-level support throughout the process, and if needed, CPAP treatment and compliance tracking solutions.