Can You Get a CDL If You Have Sleep Apnea?

Can You Get a CDL If You Have Sleep Apnea?

Research shows that about 13% of men and 6% of women in the US suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Sadly, this can give folks daytime drowsiness as well as fatigue or a constant feeling of being tired. Obviously, this is not ideal for truckers on the road. We are sometimes asked whether or not you can get a CDL if you have sleep apnea. The short answer is yes, but let’s take a deep dive to deal with any questions you might have. 

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions can lead to fragmented sleep and other health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. There are three types. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common, where the airway becomes narrowed or blocked. Central sleep apnea sufferers don’t have an airway issue; instead, the brain dosen’t send the right signals to the respiratory system. Lastly, mixed sleep apnea is simply a combination of the obstructive and central.

Is Sleep Apnea Testing Required?

No. At present, federal law does not require testing. Both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) don’t require you to get a physical exam to check for sleep apnea.

However, Your Medical Exam May Include Sleep Apnea Testing

To get a CDL license and to keep your CDL license, you are required to get a medical examination. During this exam, the medical practitioner may require that you get sleep apnea testing, provided they see a reason for it. 

The medical practitioner will look closely at these types of symptoms or history:

Excess weight

Older age

Loud snoring

Narrow airway

BMI over 40


High blood pressure

History of heart disease

If I Am Diagnosed with Sleep Apnea, Can I Get My CDL?

Yes, you can get a CDL if you have sleep apnea, but there are important conditions and requirements to be met. The FMCSA mandates that individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea must demonstrate effective treatment and control of their condition before being certified to drive. Here’s how it works:

Diagnosis and Treatment: If diagnosed with sleep apnea, the driver must adhere to the recommended treatment plan. Common treatments include the use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, which keep the airway open during sleep. It’s essential to demonstrate consistent use of the CPAP machine, as compliance is a key factor in medical certification.

Regular Monitoring and Compliance: Drivers with sleep apnea are required to undergo regular follow-up evaluations to confirm that their treatment is effective. Medical examiners will check records from the CPAP device to confirm usage and efficacy. Consistent treatment and positive health outcomes are important for maintaining CDL eligibility.

Maintaining Safety on the Road

The primary concern of the FMCSA, DOT, and the trucking industry is safety. By making sure that drivers with sleep apnea adhere to treatment protocols, the risk of fatigue-related incidents can be significantly reduced.

For those aspiring to a career in commercial driving, the key takeaway is that sleep apnea does not automatically disqualify you from obtaining a CDL. However, it requires a commitment to managing the condition responsibly. This means regular medical check-ups, adherence to treatment plans, and being proactive about your health.