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Electronic Logs Are Not Really Improving Semi-truck Crash Numbers

Posted on: February 12th, 2019

Truck driver fatigue has long been a problem for the transportation industry. Resulting in accidents, fatalities, and significant insurance claims.

The federal government recently passed sweeping regulatory changes. Including a broad mandate for electronic logs, known as ELDs. In the past, truck drivers kept paper logbooks. There they manually marked their stops, time spent performing pre- and post-trip inspections, fueling, loading and unloading, and driving time. These logbooks help the driver track their time so that they could stay within the hours of service. The goal was to make sure the truck drivers don’t work or drive more than what they should; during a single workday. Of course, like any rule, many clever truck drivers found ways around the logbook requirements. Many fabricated a second book to show the police or inspectors, as well as logging tasks they didn’t do.

To avoid these problems, regulators passed rules requiring the modern ELDs.

This removes many of the temptations and abuses. But these ELDs may not be as reliable and effective as initially hoped. A recent study published by researchers from University of Arkansas, Northeastern University and Michigan State University revealed that the efficacy of the sweeping policy change from late 2017 may be a bit underwhelming. In response, leading trucking accident attorney, Roger Dodd, suggests that, “for years the trucking industry became overwhelmed with drivers racing to log as many miles as possible to earn a living. Though well-intentioned, these regulations may have the unfortunate effect of increasing accident rates, rather than reducing them.”

The study, entitled “Did the Electronic Logging Device Mandate Reduce Accidents?” went on to discuss how the crash data reviewed spanned a period from January 2018 (just after implementation of the new regulation) through September 2018.

During this period of time, there was a definite increase in the number of drivers meeting their hours of service requirements. This means more drivers were complying and therefore remaining within their allotted time behind the wheelThe problem is the study could not show where this actually had a direct impact on reducing the number of crashes. On the contrary, the new regulation may have indeed had somewhat of a negative effect. At least when it comes to smaller motor carriers. The study claims that while larger carriers may be able to absorb some of the changes, drivers at smaller companies may have actually increased bad driving behaviors, such as speeding, in order to compensate for the restrictions. This could, in turn, lead to higher crash rates as time goes on.
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