semi in front of moon

Photo: David Gonzalez, MnDOT

Truck drivers who don’t follow through with employer-mandated treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) have a higher risk of serious crashes, according to Roadway Safety Institute (RSI) research. This ongoing work, which has implications for both trucking companies and policymakers, was honored with the 2019 Robert C. Johns Research Partnership Award given by the Center for Transportation Studies (CTS) at the University of Minnesota.

“Our study examined the first-ever employer-mandated program for diagnosing and treating this dangerous disease,” says Stephen Burks, professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota Morris (UMM) and an RSI researcher. “We found a large and statistically significant association between non-adherence with OSA treatment and preventable tractor-trailer crashes.”

The research team analyzed a program that Schneider, a major motor carrier, had initiated to screen, diagnose, and treat its drivers for OSA. The work involved a mix of disciplines including economics, human factors, medicine, and statistics.

“Our findings reinforced the decision by Schneider to continue its OSA program,” Burks says. The results have also been cited by at least one other large motor carrier in its decision to institute an OSA program internally.

In addition to UMM and Schneider, partnering organizations were Harvard Medical School, Precision Sleep Solutions, and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

In ongoing research, the project team is analyzing differences in per-member, per-month medical insurance costs that are associated with the OSA program (other than those of the OSA program itself). The goal is to determine if the carrier can fund the OSA program from the savings generated in medical insurance claims, Burks says.

The Robert C. Johns Research Partnership Award is presented annually to a team of individuals who have collaboratively drawn on their diverse expertise to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

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