The prevalence of Obstructive Sleep Aponea (OSA) among motorists and commercial vehicle drivers has prompted the RAC to start a campaign to raise awareness about the issue.
It is estimated that 1.4 million UK drivers have the disorder, which is characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness.
However, it is thought at least 40,000 HGV drivers could be suffering from the disorder too, making the haulage industry arguably a bigger risk to the public.
“HGVs can do so much more damage than cars,” said Dr John Stradling, a consultant physician and professor of respiratory medicine who is supporting the RAC campaign.
“Because HGV drivers fear losing their livelihood, they may be more inclined to not present with symptoms unless facilities for diagnosis and treatment are rapid, thus generating the worst of all worlds – not presenting and going on driving.”
However, the RAC said effective treatment was available and could enable professional drivers to continue working.
In a parliamentary debate on the issue in 2012, Sheffield MP Meg Munn said the rate of OSA among lorry drivers was significantly higher than for the general population:
“There is a high correlation with being overweight and the sedentary lifestyle of many who drive for a living increases their risk of developing it,” she said.
Munn added that medical experts estimated that as many as 20% of HGV drivers suffered from the condition.
Commercial Motor looked at the sleep aponea issue in depth in 2012.