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Obesity, sleep apnea, driver fatigue and trucking safety

New Year’s resolutions — mine included — often include aspirational goals for improved fitness and weight loss. As a trucking accident attorney in Atlanta, Goorgia, that perennial promise to myself is also a reminder of the relation between obesity, sleep apnea and dangers in interstate trucking.

Fortunately, Weight Watchers now has a mobile version that works with Blackberry. Truck drivers, as well as trial lawyers, could find that useful.

Last spring, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Medical Review Board recommended that holders of Commercial Drivers Licenses be referred for medical testing for sleep apnea if they have Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. One-third of Americans were classified as obese in 2003-2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and from what I see in truck stops and in litigation, truck drivers who have little way to maintain a good fitness routine on the road are no exception.

BMI combines a person’s height and weight to set a score. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an adult’s BMI can be calculated by dividing the person’s weight in pounds by inches squared and multiplying that number by 703. A BMI number of 30 indicates obesity, according to the BMI system. A BMI calculator is available at www.cdc.gov.

Sleep apnea occurs most often when throat muscles relax during sleep, momentarily preventing oxygen from traveling to one’s lungs.

I would not be surprised to see this recommendation become the basis for new rules under the Obama administration, as the Medical Review Board normally has considerable influence.

Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale), and is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy,. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute, is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America, and is a frequent speaker at continuing legal education programs for the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Secretary of the 40,000 member State Bar of Georgia.