Researchers from three major universities recently released a study on the effects of the electronic logging mandate that found the use of ELDs have not reduced crashes and may cause an increase in unsafe driving habits.
The OOIDA Foundation conducted a brief analysis of the study, which was released in January by researchers from Northeastern University, the University of Arkansas, and Michigan State University. The study is titled, “Did the Electronic Logging Device Mandate Reduce Accidents?”
“While the results from the study certainly show that ELDs have not improved safety, we must be careful with how some might interpret the results,” the OOIDA Foundation said. “Safety advocates might use this study to push their case for speed limiters, even though the authors suggest that a change in hours-of-service regulations will help to improve safety.”
The 41-page study revealed that hours-of-service violations declined when the ELD mandate started light enforcement in December 2017 and fell further when stricter enforcement began in April 2018. However, the number of weekly truck crashes reported in the study went from 1,717 before the mandate to 1,912 during the light enforcement period and then to 1,703 after strict enforcement began.
While the number of hours-of-service violations dropped significantly, the number of crashes among owner-operators actually increased, the study said.
The study revealed many findings that would be of particular interest to small carriers and owner-operators. Many of the findings fall in line with some of the arguments against the mandate levied by truck drivers and OOIDA before ELDs became a requirement.
- Truck drivers were already motivated to avoid crashes before the ELD mandate went into effect. A crash can lead to significant physical, financial and emotional costs for a driver. For an owner-operator, it could mean the end of his or her business.
- Statistics don’t show a large number of crashes caused by fatigued drivers as estimates range from 1.4 percent to less than 4 percent.
- Drivers have specific information that could be useful when deciding whether to drive, which inflexible regulations cannot take into account. Basically, drivers know when they are tired and when they are not, and they know whether weather and traffic could increase the chances of a crash.
- The estimates for the effect of the policy shift is that crashes increased by between 2,290 and 3,266 per year. The carriers most affected by the ELD mandate – small carriers – show no significant reductions in crashes.
- A more strict approach to the hours-of-service regulations may have led to an increase in unsafe driving behavior. The study said that unsafe driving violations by owner-operators increased by somewhere 23.4 to 33.3 percent and speeding increased between 23 and 31 percent.
- Given the legal liabilities involved with being in a crash while working outside of the hours-of-service limits, truckers were already motivated to drive within the limits and were likely extra cautious when they drove past the hours-of-service limits.
The OOIDA Foundation analysis said the study had limitations and offered only preliminary results.
“The study used millions of roadside inspections from Jan. 1, 2017, through Sept. 1, 2018. However, this will not give a clear picture, as this data can take months to update completely with various states lagging in their informational processes,” the analysis states. “It is also important to note the many exemptions to the ELD mandate, thus it is impossible to know which carriers in the Motor Carrier Management Information System database are subject to ELDs.”
Even with the limitations, the OOIDA Foundation said the study did a good job attempting to analyze the true effectiveness of ELDs by not only examining compliance but also reportable crashes.
“For years, FMCSA and others have only focused on compliance, but as we all know, compliance does not equal safety,” the analysis states. “With that in mind, the study demonstrates that while hours-of-service compliance is up for all carriers, crashes are increasing overall.”
The findings mesh with OOIDA Foundation survey results that revealed 78 percent of members said they feel more pressure to drive when they felt it was better to stop and that 69 percent felt more pressure to drive in unsafe road conditions since the ELD mandate went into effect.
“Safety has been decreased,” an OOIDA member said in the survey. “The reason is now you are on a time clock that is always pushing you.”
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