Truck drivers keep the country’s economy rolling along with their wheels, but at what cost to both themselves and other motorists on the road? According to a University of Pennsylvania study that has been cited by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, around one-third of truckers are living with a sleep disorder that could affect their ability to remain vigilant on the road.

Sleep apnea, as many Massachusetts’ residents may be aware, is a disorder related to breathing during sleeping. It causes brief interruptions of breathing during one’s sleep and can be potentially life-threatening. Unfortunately, it also goes undiagnosed and untreated, even though the FMCSA states that someone with a diagnosed medical condition or history of it is not able to drive safely and cannot be medically qualified to operate a motor vehicle. At the same time, the FMCSA states that a commercial truck driver who has been successfully treated for their diagnosed medical condition can continue to operate a vehicle.

A controversy arose over the summer as to whether screening for sleep apnea should become mandatory as part of the Department of Transportation physical. Though the FMCSA had been considering it, they eventually decided against it, citing that it would end up costing truckers hundred of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses. Many believe that even though testing should be mandatory, they are not in favor of truckers bearing the cost of it.

However, without consistent screening and treatment, the cost of a fatigued truck driver may fall on the shoulders of accident victims. Sleep apnea is not a new disorder, and neither is it a secret that it causes drivers to become drowsy and slow to react. As a result, they may end up striking a vehicle around them and causing serious injuries in a truck accident. If this happens, holding the trucker and trucking company responsible with the help of an experienced professional might be possible.