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Many truckers are tired at the wheel

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  If you're traveling for Thanksgiving, you'll be joined by thousands of other cars, and plenty of big rigs.

While there are requirements that truck drivers take sleep breaks, it's not uncommon for some of them to drive sleep deprived, especially if they have the disorder known as sleep apnea.

Truckers drive for 8, 9, even ten hours at a time. Imagine being behind the wheel after a night of tossing and turning, when you just didn't get enough rest.

Your eyes close for only a moment, but that sleepiness puts you and everyone else in danger.

It's a message that almost seems trite; Safety first.  Linda Thompson with Southern Ag Carriers said, "It's number 1. That's your bottom line."

The bottom line because if something goes wrong in one of these big rigs, it creates big problems.  Thompson said, "For any company, especially the trucking industry, you've got a lot riding on that truck."

The most precious cargo? The person driving it, and the people they are riding next to. That's why a good night's sleep is one the most important tools a driver can have.

Samuel Bledsoe said, "It's very important. First of all, you got to look out for yourself. Myself, I always say, late freight is better than scattered freight."

Bledsoe has driven trucks for more than a decade. He says guidelines put in place to limit hours on the road, give plenty of time for sleep.  He said, "If you manage your time right, you can get plenty of sleep."

But that doesn't always translate into good rest. Dr. Chris Mann said, "It's been shown that the risk created by a severe obstructive sleep apnea is about the same risk as sleeping five hours or less."

That's why there's a move mandate sleep apnea screenings in the trucking industry. Dr. Mann said, "The significance of a truck driver, is their accidents tend to be a little more spectacular the cost of their accidents are significantly higher."

Even though it's not currently mandated, Southern Ag Carriers already require potential employees to be screened for sleep apnea during their pre-employment physical. If they have it, they must be treated.  Thompson said, "It's very important that you have a well rested driver." To keep driving along safely, keeping you safe, too.

Of course, drivers of 18-wheelers aren't the only ones who need to be well-rested, those of us driving four wheeled vehicles also need to make sure we have plenty of sleep before we get behind the wheel.

In addition to checking for sleep apnea, truck drivers are also checked for body mass index, obesity, and hypertension, all in an attempt to make sure they have no hidden health issues that could put YOU in danger.

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