Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Commercial Drivers

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder that causes breathing pauses or shallow breathing during sleep.  Left untreated, the condition may increase risk for a variety of heart-related conditions, obesity, and stroke.  It’s a medical condition that the United States Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) takes very seriously—including whether commercial drivers who have this condition should be medically cleared.

In a 2012 FMCSA report, medical examiners are provided with two paths related to an OSA diagnosis.  First, a driver is to be immediately and unconditionally disqualified or denied medical clearance if: the driver admits to excessive sleepiness during the major wake period while driving; the driver has experience a sleep-related crash; or the driver has been non-compliant in OSA treatment.  Second, drivers may be conditionally certified if one of the following three conditions are met: the driver has an apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) of greater than 20 until compliant with positive airway pressure (PAP); the driver has undergone surgery and is pending post-op findings; or the driver has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than or equal to 35 kg/m2 pending a sleep study.

Conditional OSA certification timelines are important for drivers to manage.  In this regard, the FMCSA provides the following:

  1. A driver with a BMI of greater than or equal to 35 kg/m2 may be certified for 60 days pending sleep study and treatment (if the driver is diagnosed with OSA).
  2. Within 60 days, if a driver being treated with OSA is compliant with treatment, the driver may receive an additional 90-day conditional certification.
  3. After 90 days, if the driver is still compliant with treatment, the driver may be certified for no more than 1 year.  Future certification should be dependent on continued compliance.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million American adults suffer from OSA or other form of sleep apnea.  Drivers included in this population should take an OSA diagnosis seriously and, if not automatically disqualified, should maintain strict compliance with the conditional certification timeline.  

Our certified medical examiners will engage drivers in an extensive interview related to sleep habits and driving history.  For OSA suffering drivers who we are able to conditionally certify, we will work with you on a plan that has a goal of maintaining certification.

Is your DOT physical due?  No need to make an appointment.  Just come see us during office hours 7 days a week in New Smyrna Beach or Ormond Beach.