Exploring Links Between Medical Conditions and Safety Performance in Tractor Trailer Drivers

Principal Investigator:

Stephen Burks, Associate Professor, Economics


Project Summary:

We are continuing to complete an initial phase, and then extend and expand an existing program of research (the "Truckers & Turnover Project"), with two incremental components. First component: we have completed initial work and are doing additional work on data already obtained from our initial study carrier, which has a well-established obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) screening, diagnosis, and treatment program. OSA programs are not currently mandated, and although an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) was issued on this topic in March, 2016 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration 2016), in part because of concerns about whether OSA program benefits offset their costs, it was withdrawn by the Trump administration in August, 2017 (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Federal Railroad Administration 2017). The sleep medicine community and several legislators have protested the withdrawal (Sleep Review Staff 2017; Safety and Health Staff 2017a; Safety and Health Staff 2017b), so while it is unlikely the FMCSA will move on this in the short run, the need for better scientific evidence has only increased. Last year we published a paper on the relationship between OSA treatment adherence and crash risk in CMV drivers in the journal Sleep (Burks, Anderson et al. 2016a). We are continuing our active analysis of the associated savings in medical costs via an examination of medical insurance claims, and we are also continuing to examine differences in crash costs associated with the OSA program. Credible evidence of the medical cost and crash costs savings accruing to a firm employing an OSA program will make investment in such programs by individual motor carriers more likely even in the absence of regulations, and may help reduce opposition to new regulations requiring OSA screening. Second component: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Medical Review Board (MRB) has called for better data connecting multiple driver medical conditions with safety performance (Hegmann, Andersson et al. 2012). Our first component extends current work with the participating carrier using 2005-09 data, but we ultimately need to consider more recent data. We have made progress on re-establishing the legal and security conditions to obtain operational, human resource, and protected health data on drivers from the participating trucking firm. The exact analysis plan for future work using these data may depend in part on the firm's preferences, but the current intended starting point will be completing the acquisition of information from the firm's commercial driver's license (CDL) biennial medical examination records to enable a comparison with those already in hand. As part of this process we also are establishing the ability to collect medical insurance claim information on the same drivers for future use, laying the basis for further work not in the currently planned RSI project that will address MRB concerns.

Previous related projects:


Project Details:

  • Start date: 12/2014
  • Project Status: Active
  • Research Area: Transportation Safety and Traffic Flow
  • Topics: Safety, Trucking