Truckers, Are ELDs Causing More Accidents?
There is an ongoing study regarding the correlation between electronic logging devices and trucking safety. Recently, certain studies suggest that road accidents have increased since the implementation of the new ELD law. Is the evidence and study telling the whole story, or do we need a larger sample size or different method of recording these events.
ELDs, or Electronic Driving Logs, are a familiar topic for today’s truckers. The purpose of ELDs is to increase safety on the road by reducing driver fatigue and ultimately improving driving behavior by preventing truckers from spending too many hours on the road at once. However, a recent report suggests that ELDs have done just the opposite because some drivers have begun using unsafe driving behaviors in response to the ELD limitations.
Have ELDs Reduced Accidents?
One researcher from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University did some research into how ELDs have impacted the number of trucking accidents since their implementation and the findings were surprising. Using crash and inspection data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the study found that the implementation of ELDs made no measurable impact when it came to the number of accidents.
The report was titled, “Did the Electronic Logging Device Mandate Reduce Accidents?” and it drew an interesting conclusion based on this fact. By looking at both small and large fleets, Alex Scott (head of the project) compared the rate of accidents before the ELD mandate took effect and after the ELD mandate took effect. Amongst small carriers, a group that saw the largest increase in ELD adoption between 2017 and 2018, there was no significant decrease or increase in the number of accidents.
However, amongst larger carriers, the study noted an increase in accidents following the implementation of the ELD mandate. Of course, it’s important to note that this same paper pointed out that most large fleets were already running ELDs before the mandate took effect. According to this report, ELDs have more benefits to offer a large fleet because it allows for better driver monitoring and gives the fleet supervisors the ability to reduce HOS violations.
At the same time, small fleets with less complex operations do not see as compelling benefits when it comes to the monitoring and informational aspects of ELD implementation.
The report summarized the findings by stating: “We show the mandate clearly achieved its first-order effect: Drivers increased their compliance with HOS regulations, with drivers for small carriers most affected, because many large carriers had already adopted ELDs and violated HOS regulations infrequently prior to the mandate. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the number of accidents decreased.”
Increase in Unsafe Driving Behavior
The report discovered that, while the number of accidents appears unchanged, there seems to be an increase in unsafe driving behaviors amongst truckers, most likely associated with the loss of productivity that truckers have noted due to the limited hours they are able to put in now. Amongst unsafe driving behaviors, speeding was one of the biggest violations that has appeared to increase in the same time period.
The report states: “Our data suggests that unsafe driving infractions for small carriers and independent owner-operators increased relative to large asset-based carriers after the mandate was implemented, thus suggesting a potential mechanism for the lack of a decrease in accidents.”
Speeding increased as much as 31% according to the report while owner-operators’ unsafe driving violations increased by as much as 33.3%.
The Positive Impact of ELDs
While there may not be a noticeable shift in the number of accidents since the implementation of ELDs, there have been positive effects that can be realized.
Namely, the level of hours of service (HOS) compliance. After the ELD mandate went into effect in December 2017, the number of HOS violations decreased by 36.7% in the initial light-enforcement phase.
When stricter enforcement began in April 2018, there was a further reduction of 51.7%. A reduction was seen amongst owner-operators as well, who were generally against the ELD mandate when it was proposed. Amongst that group, HOS violations decreased by 43.9%.
Whether you were for or against the ELD mandate, it’s in place now and it is making an impact on trucking operations. However, the long-term impact on safety is yet to be seen.
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