FMCSA study on electronic logs 'skewed' to large carriers

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 5/9/2014

A study published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that trucks equipped with electronic logs have fewer crashes and hours-of-service violations than non-equipped trucks, but the administration admits that the data set used in the study is “skewed toward larger, for-hire carriers” and does not represent all of trucking.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted the study, compiling data from 11 motor carriers. A report that accompanies the study says the findings are “consistent with the estimated safety benefits” outlined in the FMCSA’s supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking for electronic logs published on March 28.

The 11 carriers studied had a total of 82,943 crashes, 970 hours-of-service violations over 15.6 billion miles traveled in a timeframe calculated as 224,034 truck years.

The study shows an 11.7 percent reduction in total crash rate for trucks equipped with electronic logs compared to those without.

The agency refers to electronic logs in this study as “electronic hours-of-service recorders,” or EHSRs.

The FMCSA admits the numbers favor larger carriers.

“Although the final data sets included data from 11 carriers representing small, medium, and large carriers … the data set in the study was skewed toward larger, for-hire carriers and may not represent the overall U.S. trucking population,” the agency states in an accompanying document published Friday, May 9.

Notably, the sample size was not large enough to break out any specific findings about fatigue-related crashes.

“Small sample sizes limited the power to detect a significant difference between the EHSR cohort and the non-EHSR cohort for U.S. Department of Transportation-recordable and fatigue-related crashes,” the agency stated.

“This result is primarily attributed to the lack of sufficient data (in terms of the number of these types of crashes) to be able to detect safety benefits with statistical significance at the observed level.”

In 2012, Congress passed a law requiring the FMCSA to pursue a new rulemaking on electronic logs.

A successful court challenge by OOIDA in 2010 forced the agency back to the drawing board to solve the issue of electronic logging devices being used by carriers and others to harass commercial drivers. The 2012 congressional mandate requires the FMCSA to address driver harassment in the proposed rule as a direct result of OOIDA’s challenge.

The proposal for electronic logs is at the supplemental notice phase, and is still many layers away from becoming a final rule.

OOIDA continues to battle against an industry-wide mandate.

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