Stephen Burks is a professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota Morris and has done extensive research on the trucking industry.

One of the nation’s leading researchers on the trucking industry offered some startling data on the KMRS Community Connection from recent studies on truckers and obstructive sleep apnea, a disease that closes or constricts the airway when you are asleep. Stephen Burks is a professor of economics and management at the University of Minnesota Morris and Principal Investigator of the Truckers & Turnover Project since 2005.

Among truckers who were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, his team found a big difference in job performance between truckers who did not use any treatment device and those who did use such a device.

“It’s called a CPAP device or an APAP device. They have to use it when they sleep at night,” Burks explained. “And if they refuse, the people who we identify as never using it have about four to five times the crash rate for U.S. DOT reportable, preventable crashes — in other words, serious crashes that could have been prevented by the driver — than people who accept treatment and people in the reference population. So, that’s a big difference.”

Burks noted that the employer involved in the study had as a condition of employment the use of the treatment device for those diagnosed with apnea. And if they were in the employer’s medical insurance program, the device was given to them free of charge as it was considered preventive medicine. Another study Burks led found that medical insurance cost savings come from those who accept treatment for apnea versus those who reject the treatment, to the tune of $400 per individual per month.

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