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Sleep Apnoea and the HGV Driver

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  • Sleep Apnoea and the HGV Driver

    A truck-driver who believes he has Obstructive Sleep Apnoea is faced with a dilemma.

    If he goes to his GP and gets referred for a sleep-study consultation, then once the diagnosis is confirmed the driver must surrender his licence to the DVLA, and risk losing his job. If he takes the path of denial and carries on driving as though nothing has changed, he risks causing a fatal traffic-accident and receiving a lengthy prison-sentence.

    As things stand, once the driver is established with CPAP therapy, he can apply to have his licence returned and resume driving.

    The problem is the long delay between the driver first seeing his GP and getting started on CPAP Therapy to the point where he can have his licence returned. This is very often in excess of twelve months.

    The time involved needs to be very much shorter, so the driver is off-work rather than out-of-work.

    If you are/were an HGV driver, please let me have your views on the following points:

    1. Did you put off visiting your GP because you felt you were putting your career in jeopardy?

    2. How many visits did you have to make before the GP referred you to a sleep consultant?

    3. How long did you have to wait for the appointment?

    4. How long did you have to wait before you were started on CPAP Therapy?
    5. From being diagnosed and surrendering your licence, how long was it until you got your licence back?

    6. Do you continue to use CPAP regularly?

    Your responses would be very much appreciated. It is the essence of a campaign I am conducting, and I very much welcome any input from CPAP Forum members.

    Thank you again.


  • #2
    And also .....

    Hi Richard

    Are you limiting your campaign to HGV drivers only?

    The problem you outline is just as acute for company reps and van drivers as well as anyone who has no (reasonable) alternative tlo driving to work.

    In fact, its as acute for all drivers just that one's income isn't necessarily at risk.

    Respironics REMstar 'M' Series APAP.
    Resmed Mirage 'Quattro FX' Full Face Mask with a 'Quattro' headgear.


    • #3
      Sleep Apnoea and the HGV driver

      Hi TF,

      No, but I have to start somewhere. Over 300 people lose their lives every year as the victims of road accidents where the driver was asleep at the wheel. And a 40-tonne artic. is going to make more impact than a Suzuki van.

      As we SA people know already, you don't know you have it till somebody, usually the long-suffering wife, tells you. So what about drivers with no bed-partner? What about the drivers you see parked up in lay-bys every night, alone?

      Most fatal RTAs occur early morning or late afternoon/evening. Without CPAP, as you well know, you wake up with a thumping headache and feel ghastly. But you need to be on your way . . . .

      And when you go to your GP, he will tell you to get to bed earlier and don't drink so much. And when, eventually, you are diagnosed, you lose your licence and your job. Not much of an incentive to come clean, is it? But it could be made so much easier.

      That's why I am appealing for some data from OSA stricken drivers, who have read the book, got the t-shirt, etc.

      The worst thing that can happen is for those who suspect they may have OSA to deny it, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is happening on a fairly broad scale.


      • #4
        Hi Richard,

        I missed this great effort so better late than never.

        Truckers are very much in a difficult position and the official rules/guidelines do little to help them out. The 18 week targets were bad enough for truckers (as there could be months between diagnosis and treatment or in other words, months of no driving/no work/no income) and there is talk of these targets to vanish again.

        Officially, after diagnosis has been confirmed, they shouldn't drive until they are treated and treatment is confirmed to be under control. That gap of uncertainty is the problem.

        This is probably why so many truckers use our in-home sleep study service. Between getting the results of a study and commencing CPAP can be as little as 48 hours. A week later, the data report can be downloaded to confirm compliance.

        So in answer to your questions, truckers then typically* report:

        1. Yes, so I went private so I'm not bound by NHS policy to inform the DVLA

        2. No need, if I suspect sleep apnoea (I snore, I'm a bit overweight and feel tried) I can book a test online like that, no referral needed

        3. No wait, next day delivery of the in-home test equipment, which is the same stuff as used in the NHS clinics

        4. After sending the kit back (Royal Mail returns bag included) it took 4 working days for the data to be analysed and a day after that I got the results by letter. As mild/moderate/severe OSA was confirmed and I didn't show any contraindications, I was able to start CPAP (Auto) 2 days later.

        5. I was able to send the DVLA confirmation of diagnosis on day X and send them proof of compliance of therapy 8 days later. I got the 'green light' before it was even revoked, having followed up the correspondence I sent them by recorded mail.

        6. Yes, am considering a second 12V unit for in the truck.

        * It obviously varies... But this is what dozens of truckers/taxi drivers were able to achieve.

        Of course, it not only helps the employees of transport companies, but the companies themselves too. Sleep-related incidents are known to cause a lot more damage (no braking involved) so costs are a lot higher than other RTAs. This can mean huge savings for unsurers and haulage companies for example. It's in their best interest to assist the drivers in this predicament. The stats don't lie, truckers are prima OSA candidates.

        We could put your survey in the next forum newsletter to draw attention to it.


        • #5
          hgv driver and sleep apnoea

          hi my name is Ian and i'm an hgv driver
          Iwas involved in a minor (luckilly)accident on the 25th August I fell asleep at the wheel.I put myself off the road there and then.I managed to get an appointment with my doctor the same day and straight away she suspected sleep apnoea. the next day I had all the info to get myself booked in for tests at a sleep clinic. Had the test 1 week later and got the results 1 week after that and was given a cpap machine straight away
          As soon as the diagnosis was confirmed I informed the dvla who said they would send the relevant forms out to me regarding my licence.
          I had been using the cpap for two weeks before I recieved them by which time I had been back to the clinic and had been told by them that I was in full compliance with everything the the dvla required that is full and continuouse use of the cpap machine and sleeping for more than four hours per night and my AHI incidents had dropped from 95 per hr (severe) to 1.9 (below average)
          I got fed up of waiting for the dvla to let me know what was going to happen next so I rang them and told them what the results were and that the sleep clinic had told me that I was in full compliance and they have now said even though they havn't contacted the consultant yet that I can return to work
          Maybe I'm just lucky I don't know.
          9 weeks in total off work from accident to returning to work so it's not all doom and gloom
          Hope this was helpful to you and i'm sorry it was a bit long winded.


          • #6
            Sleep Apnoea and the HGV driver

            Hello Ian, good to hear your news.

            You were very fortunate in having a GP who recognised OSA and knew what to do about it. That is by no means the norm; you are far more likely to be fobbed off with 'go on a diet and lose some weight' or 'don't drink so much'. Small comfort, indeed, when what you really want is the answer to why you are constantly falling asleep and feeling terrified. You want an answer now, not in 6 months time when you may/may not have lost a couple of stone.

            Another point, you made contact with the DVLA, you put a rocket under them, and it worked.

            Write or phone the DVLA, but don't mess them around. Always be truthful and up-front with them and they will help all they can.

            It's the claimants who try to out-smart the DVLA with ridiculous stories and excuses that soon find their licence is taking much longer than it should.

            Remember, the decision is with the DVLA, based upon quantifiable medical data and the experience of their Medical Section. It is up to us, the patients, to ensure they have all they need to make a judgment in each case.

            I am very pleased to hear you had only 9 weeks off work; no more decorating or gardening for a while, then?

            Well done



            • #7
              sleep apnoea and the hgv driver

              hi richard
              i'm just waiting now for my employers to contact thier insurers to find out where they stand regarding me and the sleep apnoea.Does anyone know anything about this.I know most car insurers are happy enough if the dvla say you are ok to drive but I can't seem to find any info about insuring hgv drivers. Any info on this would be gratefully received


              • #8
                My employers were happy if DVLA were happy, so were their Insurance Company, I doubt you will have any worries


                • #9
                  Sleep Apnoea and the HGV driver

                  I think the question of commercial-vehicle insurance where there is a history of OSA is an important one, particularly for self-employed drivers. I shall put the question to my man at Lloyds and let you know.

                  Provided you keep up with the CPAP regime, and front-up for an annual medical, I don't see it making much difference.



                  • #10
                    Insurance no problem.

                    It is illegal for any insurance company to descriminate against anyone on medical grounds, as long as DVLA are aware of any long term condition and have granted you a licence, there is no problem, by granting you a licence they are satisfied you are fit to drive. It is nothing to do with the insurance companies, they supply a service not an entitlement.
                    Best of luck.


                    • #11
                      Sleep Apnoea and the HGV Driver

                      thanks for the replies everyone.
                      now the insurance company is asking for everything in writing which is not a problem. the dvla e-mailed my company as soon as i asked them to but now I have to wait 1 week for the consultant at the sleep clinic to come back off her holidays before she can do her bit. never mind at least the wife is happy she says i can do a bit more decorating lol. can't wait to get back to work
                      thanks again


                      • #12
                        Really interested in this..

                        Guys, I am really interested in this, for two reasons,

                        a) I am in the process of my own diagnosis (just been for sleep study 2 weeks ago)
                        b) I am a Regional General Manager with a major logistics company.

                        Due my own situation, I am obviously becoming increasingly aware of the syndrome and its impact. I already struggle with my 3 hour daily commute, so it worries the cr@p out of me that I could have say 4% of my drivers with similar problems driving 44 tonne around feeling the way I do!


                        • #13
                          Sleep Apnoea and the HGV driver

                          Hi Chappuchino,

                          I am delighted that, as a member of the haulage trade, you have an interest in OSA.

                          Around 300 people lose their lives every year as a result of a truck-driver falling asleep; ordinary people, fathers,mothers, teenagers, children, babies, even. Since the total road accident fatalities in the UK is around 2,800 per annum, this means that sleeping drivers are responsible for around 10% of all road accident fatalities. All totally unnecessary deaths.

                          As if that weren't bad enough, no-one in the haulage industry wants to talk about it. The Road Haulage Association and the Freight Transport Association, neither will accept having any responsibility for encouraging a driver to get himself checked out for OSA.

                          The driver perhaps knows that if he is found to have OSA he will get the sack, so he presses on regardless, his untreated condition getting worse all the time. If he fronts up, he will lose his job, if he doesn't, he will very likely cause a major accident and face imprisonment.

                          OSA in the haulage industry is beset by overwhelming inertia and indifference; a medic recently carried out an OSA screening of a large transport company in the North of England, 60% of the drivers screened showed symptoms. But the employer doesn't want to know, so, unless the individual driver goes to his GP, nothing will happen.

                          I am running a campaign to raise awareness of OSA in the haulage trade and setting up a web-site specifically for the driver who believes he has the symptoms, but doesn't want to tell his boss. He can find treatment, either NHS or privately without putting his career at too much risk.

                          I would welcome hearing of HGV drivers' experiences with the route to diagnosis and treatment via this forum, or by private message. I am at a conference of the Sleep Apnoea Trust this coming weekend where the matter will be discussed.



                          • #14
                            Hi Richard, I know the Chief Exec of the FTA personally (he was my boss when I was at Bibby). Perhaps, I can get his ear on this.


                            • #15
                              Sleep Apnoea and the HGV Driver

                              hi all
                              first off richard if there is anything i can do to help you with your campain don't hesitate to ask.
                              correct me if i am wrong but surely whether you go private or through the nhs once you have been diagnosed with osa you are supposedly under a legal obligation to inform the dvla, god forbid that you were involved in an accident and they found out that you had carried on driving even though you had been diagnosed, they would probably throw the key away. speaking for myself i would rather give up driving for good than have it on my concience that i had hurt someone or possibbly worse. for anybody that might be reading this THE TREATMENT WORKS i know i've been there and got the tea-shirt to prove it.
                              so what if you have to wear a mask and be hooked up to a machine every night it dosn't take long to get used to it and take my word for it the benefits are unbelievable i can't begin to explain how much better i feel since starting on cpap.
                              and for all those hgv drivers out there if you are up front and tell the dvla everything and don't give them any bull you will be supprised how helpful they can be
                              i have been off work (NOT out of work) for 10 weeks now and hope to find out next week whether i can go back.
                              to my way of thinking i would rather be off work for a couple of months than in prison for a couple of years
                              sorry to be so long winded yet again