The RHA and RAC have joined forces to call for faster diagnosis of lorry drivers suffering with sleep apnoea after new research found that it is as dangerous as drink driving.
The Obstructive Sleep Apnoea Partnership Group, which includes the two transport bodies, is calling for a four-week waiting limit from diagnosis to treatment for people suspected of having the condition and who drive for a living.
This, they said, will prevent them from being a danger to themselves and the public.
Currently drivers can wait months for treatment which means they may lose their jobs. As a result, said the RHA and RAC, many people may not be coming forward to test for the condition.
RHA deputy policy director, Colin Snape, urged employers to be aware of the danger signs and to highlight the issue to their drivers.
He said: “Drivers need to have confidence that if they come forward they will get treatment quickly, so that they can return to driving in no more than four weeks. The ‘Four Week Wait’ campaign sets out the standard that NICE needs to adopt if the transport community is to tackle this important road safety issue effectively.”
RAC roads policy spokesperson, Nicholas Lyes, added: “Commercial drivers are vital to the health and growth of the UK’s economy, so it’s only right that those behind the wheel are safe and aware of any health threats that might impair their driving ability.
"HGV drivers are among the most highly trained and skilled on the roads, but something like obstructive sleep apnoea can affect anybody, regardless of ability and experience, which is why we feel it is vital that they have access to a fast track diagnosis and treatment that ensures job security and they are back on the road within a few weeks.”
According to research earlier this month from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in the US “the increase in crash rates associated with driving after less than 4 hours of sleep is much greater than drink-driving equal to or slightly above the legal limit”. It stated that 21% of fatal crashes involved driver drowsiness.
"Sufferers tend to feel drowsy during the daytime and are more prone to fall asleep at the wheel when driving".
By David Craik