Electronic logging devices (ELDs) have been available for the better part of two decades. Some of the largest motor carriers in the country began using them in the aughts. However, smaller companies and owner-operators continued to use manual logbooks to track their time on the road.
The federal government has effectively phased out written logbooks by mandating a transition over to ELDs. With the exception of those that qualify for short-haul exclusions, all commercial vehicles in the United States should have ELDs that track how long they are in use and how far they travel.
The goal of requiring ELDs in semitrucks is to ensure better compliance with Hours of Service rules. By carefully tracking how long people drive and enforcing limitations, the government aims to reduce the number of trucking crashes, particularly those related to fatigue. However, a review of the crash data for big trucks indicates that the rollout coincided with increased crash risk.
What does the data show?
Some people may have hoped to witness a sudden and noticeable drop in the number of truck crashes occurring as fatigued drivers were suddenly at more risk of enforcement actions. Instead, the opposite occurred. At the same time that small fleets added ELDs to their vehicles, there was a significant increase in collision rates.
While there is no clear explanation for why it happened, researchers found that crashes for independent owner-operators increased by 11.6% after the ELD mandate took effect, while small carriers with up to 20 trucks saw a 9% increase in crashes.
Researchers are quick to point out that there is no direct causative correlation between the installation of ELDs and the spike in commercial crashes. In fact, a careful analysis looking for fatigue-related collisions and whether the rate has decreased noticeably since the introduction of ELDs would be the only true way to determine the efficacy of this new policy.
Transportation companies must remain compliant with ever-changing laws
The regulations that impact the commercial transportation industry change frequently. Federal lawmakers introduced potential new regulations almost every year, such as repeat proposals for mandated side underride guards.
Executives and other professionals in the transportation industry often track current and possible future changes in transportation regulations, while also learning about the actual impact of those legal shifts as data becomes available. Focusing on regulatory compliance and safety can help trucking companies maximize profits while reducing their financial liabilities.