Will Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) Reduce Truck Crashes in Texas?May 26, 2021
With the intention of creating a safer work environment for truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacted a law in 2015 that required most commercial trucks to have an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) installed by December 2017. FMCSA projected that this new rule would prevent over 2,000 truck accidents per year and save over 30 lives annually.
Now that we have had a few years to test out these estimations, has the FMCSA’s new ELD rule actually reduced the number of truck crashes we see in Texas each year?
How Do Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) Work to Reduce Truck Crashes in Texas?
An Electronic Logging Device is a piece of electronic hardware that records data from commercial motor vehicles. If you are familiar with the “black boxes”, or flight recorders, in airplanes, an ELD serves a similar purpose for trucks. The best ELDs have built-in GPS tracking, gyroscopes, and accelerometers and can record data such as:
- Real-time GPS location
- Fuel efficiency
- Identification information for the driver, authenticated user, vehicle, and motor carrier
- Hours-of-service (HOS) compliance
- Time and date
- Sudden acceleration
- Airbag deployment
- Whether the driver was wearing a seatbelt
- Tire pressure
- If and when brakes are applied
- Speed of travel
Truck drivers formerly used paper logs to track their hours worked, but the implementation of ELDs makes it more difficult for truck drivers to falsify their working hours. The intention of the ELD rule was to decrease drowsy driving, HOS incompliance, and other unsafe driving violations–but has it worked?
Have ELDs Actually Reduced the Number of Truck Crashes in Texas?
In April 2018, FMCSA began strictly enforcing the new ELD mandate by increasing the penalties for drivers operating without an ELD. Shortly after, the frequency of the most horrendous violations dropped by more than half. Despite this, the number of accidents for the most affected carriers did not decrease, suggesting that they made up for productivity losses due to stricter HOS compliance by working faster.
The first year after the implementation of the ELD mandate (2018) saw fatal truck crashes increase by 1% when compared to the previous year (2017). According to a report by the FMCSA, the total number of injury crashes involving large trucks or buses also increased around the same period–jumping from 112,000 in 2016 to 121,000 in 2018.
One study suggests that ELDs have shown little to no effect on accident rates because truck drivers don’t want to cause accidents in the first place. Since drivers bear the consequences of causing an accident–such as potential physical, financial and emotional costs–they are already incentivized to avoid crashes. It is also unclear how many truck accidents are caused by the fatigued drivers that ELDs are meant to deter. Most estimations report that as little as 1.4% to 4% of truck accidents are the result of drowsy driving.