Schneider National wins award for sleep apnea screening program

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The National Sleep Foundation has announced that Schneider National is the recipient of the 2007 NSF Healthy Sleep Community Award for creating a groundbreaking obstructive sleep apnea detection and treatment program for its drivers. Schneider National is the ninth recipient of the award, which recognizes outstanding efforts by businesses to initiate activities or programs based on sleep science with the goal of providing long-lasting results to benefit a significant portion of a particular community.

The commercial driver sleep apnea program administered by Schneider National was created in response to a study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the American Trucking Associations that revealed up to 28 percent of commercial driver’s license holders have some severity of OSA. A potentially life-threatening breathing-related sleep disorder that often goes undiagnosed and untreated, OSA is characterized by pauses in breathing that last at least 10 seconds or more and can occur up to 400 times per night.

Signs of sleep apnea include daytime sleepiness, falling asleep at inappropriate times, loud snoring, depression, irritability, loss of sex drive, morning headaches, frequent nighttime urination, lack of concentration and memory impairment. For commercial drivers, these symptoms are dangerous and potentially deadly. Research indicates that untreated sleep apnea puts drivers at increased risk for motor vehicle crashes as well as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes, and may contribute to obesity.

“Schneider National is honored that NSF has recognized our efforts to address the dangerous and far-reaching problem of sleep apnea in the industry,” says Don Osterberg, vice president of safety and training for Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National. “Ideally, we expect our program will serve as a model for the entire trucking industry. The industry needs to generate awareness of this problem, educate drivers to the dangers of untreated sleep apnea, provide resources to help them get treated and ultimately make the roads safer for everyone.”

After considering the extensive dangers of OSA on its drivers – most of whom fall into the risk profile for the disorder – Schneider National decided to tackle the problem head on by initiating an education campaign to raise awareness within the organization. Schneider National utilized newsletters, posters, leadership involvement and one-on-one meetings with its drivers. Through this dynamic program, Schneider National tested 547 of its drivers from April to December 2006; 445 of those tested – an astonishing 80 percent – were diagnosed with a sleep disorder and were provided treatment, improving the health and safety of its driver work force.

“NSF is proud to honor Schneider National Inc. with the 2007 Healthy Sleep Community Award for developing a program that really hits home,” says Richard Gelula, NSF’s chief executive officer. “Truck and motorcoach drivers are a significant ‘at-risk’ group for OSA and will continue to be so as the average age of drivers continues to increase over the next 20 years. Schneider National recognized the problem and took steps to make its drivers healthier and the highways safer for everyone. It is an admirable and very necessary campaign.”

The advantages of the Schneider National screening program extend beyond the creation of a healthier, more alert fleet of drivers. The company also saw a reduction in health care costs. These savings were passed onto its drivers, as Schneider provided each identified driver with a free continuous positive airway pressure machine – the standard treatment for OSA. In addition to expanding the campaign within the company, Schneider National plans to take a leadership role in promoting industry change by helping the Department of Transportation shape future guidelines for screening and treatment of OSA in commercial drivers.