1 in 10 Truckers Drive Sleepy

Study Shows Some Sleep-Impaired Truckers Test as Poorly as Drinkers

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 15, 2006 -- One in 10 of those 18 wheelers barreling down the highway beside you may have a sleepy driver at the wheel, putting you, the driver, and others at risk, says a newly published study.

Researchers found that 13% of truckers routinely skimped on sleep, and nearly 5% had severe sleep apneasleep apnea -- and that those truckers performed worse on reaction and driving tests.

In fact, some truckers tested as poorly as people who have taken the same tests after drinking alcohol for other studies.

In their study, the University of Pennsylvania's Allan Pack, MB, ChB, PhD, and colleagues looked at 406 licensed truck drivers, most of whom were still working as drivers, between 1996 and 2000.

"We identified some very impaired people," Pack says, in a university news release.

His study appears in the August issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Truckers Tested

The researchers mailed surveys to about 4,800 people with commercial driver's licenses living near Philadelphia.

Around 1,300 truckers completed the surveys, and Pack's team invited them to the University of Pennsylvania's sleep lab for testing.

A total of 406 drivers agreed. Those truckers rated their sleepiness, spent a night at the sleep lab to check for sleep apneaapnea, kept sleep diaries, and wore activity monitors for a week.

Sleep apnea is when breathing briefly stops during sleep.

They also took tests of their reaction time and a simulated driving test. And they were tested to see how easily they fell asleep (a fall asleep test).