By December 16, 2019, all commercial vehicle drivers must switch over to an electronic logging device (ELD) that automatically (and, obviously, electronically) records their “on-duty” activity. This is the final ELD mandate deadline, which includes drivers who have been operating under the advanced onboard recording device (AOBRD) exception since the ELD mandate went into effect in 2017
But will these devices really improve trucking safety and compliance? Can they help reduce crash risk for trucking companies? Here are some insights along that line of inquiry to consider:
- ELDs are expected to save lives. FMCSA noted that, on an annual average basis, use of ELDs should help save 26 lives and prevent 1,844 crashes involving large commercial motor vehicles on an annual basis.
- The overall number of truck crash fatalities is relatively small compared to the overall vehicle crash fatality rate. In 2018, the latest full year of crash data analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 4,067 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks and of those 4,067 fatalities some 667 or 16.4% were the occupants of large trucks. By comparison, 35,092 people overall died in traffic crashes in the U.S. in 2015.
- The overall motor vehicle crash picture in the U.S. is even worse. NHTSA noted that over 6.269 million motor vehicle crashes occurred in 2018, with over 4.54 million of them “property damage-only” crashes and over 1.71 million of them resulting in just injuries. Some 32,166 of those over 6.269 million crashes resulted in one or more fatalities.
- ELDs are supposed to help reduce fatigue-related driver issues. NHTSA data indicates drowsy driving accounts for 72,000 crashes per year, with more than 800 fatalities related to drowsy-driving crashes. Yet, a 2010 study by FMCSA found that only 1.4% of fatal truck accidents were the result of truck driver fatigue. However, FMCSA also found that truck drivers on the road for more than eight hours have twice the risk of crashing compared to those driving for a shorter period of time. With ELDs rigidly enforcing drive time, the risk of operating beyond the regulated 11-hour daily drive time limit should be lowered.
- Driver health impacts crash risk, big time. A study by the University of Utah Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational and Environmental Health found that truck drivers with multiple health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, are more likely to be involved in a crash than truckers with only one medical condition. Of about 38,000 drivers whose medical and crash records were studied, those with three or more ailments had a crash frequency of 93 incidents per million miles compared to 29 per million miles for all drivers.
- ELDs significantly reduce crashes and HOS violations. A study by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found there were 11.7% fewer crashes for trucks whose drivers used electronic logs versus paper-written logs. The study, which examined 83,000 crashes from 2008 to 2012 processed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety, also found that drivers using electronic logs had 53% fewer HOS violations
- Who pays the tab for vehicle crashes? You do. Nearly 75% of the economic cost of crashes is paid through taxes, insurance premiums, and congestion related costs such as travel delay, excess fuel consumption, and increased environmental impacts, NHTSA found. These costs, borne by society rather than individual crash victims, totaled over $200 billion.
- Hold onto your wallet if your truck is involved in a crash. According to FMCSA data, of the approximately 60,000 truck crashes reported to the police over the past five years, the average cost per crash ranged from $331,000 to $533,000, while the average cost per crash involving a fatality ranged between $7.2 million and $11.7 million.
- ELDs are expected to save companies money. When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) released the final ELD rule in Dec. 2015, it estimated the mandate would result in an annual “net benefit” of more than $1 billion – largely by reducing paperwork. The devices are also expected to increase the “efficiency” of roadside law enforcement personnel in reviewing the driver records, resulting in less vehicle downtime.
- Remember the ELD deadlines. On December 16, 2019, all commercial trucks must be equipped with ELDs, including those operating under the advanced onboard recording device (AOBRD) exception since the mandate went into effect in 2017.
As illustrated by these 10 points, compliance with the new ELD mandate will improve safety for transportation companies, and all drivers on the road.
This article was first published by Fleet Owner Magazine and was reprinted with permission.