Do ELDs Improve Safety?

The research says that the ELD mandate does not currently improve safety – this is according to Alex Scott of Northeastern University, Andre Balthop of the University of Arkansas, and Jason Miller of Michigan State University.

Alex Scott led a team that evaluated inspection and crash data from the FMCSA. The research shows that the widespread adoption of ELDs had no measurable impact on the number of accidents. In that same 2 year timeframe, Hours of Service violations decreased by 51.7%.

Unsafe driving infractions have increased for small carriers and owner operators.

“Our research also provides another example of how policy interventions are fraught with uncertainty in complex systems with many interconnections and possible feedbacks,” the report states.

These offsetting results, the researchers say, could have been predicted. The authors found that even before the ELD mandate, drivers were heavily incentivized to avoid accidents, and this didn’t change after the ELD mandate. The ELD mandate was designed to reduce driver fatigue, a cause of some accidents, but it failed to encourage other safe driving behaviors, and may have actually increased unsafe driving behaviors.

“Given the legal liabilities involved with being in a crash when outside hours-of-service limits, drivers are incentivized to be extra cautious when driving beyond limits. The ELD mandate has not done much to change the driver calculus in this respect, and so it is perhaps not surprising that we fail to uncover significant accident reductions,” the paper concludes.

Read the research paper in its entirety here;

What Now?

You’ve installed an Electronic Logging Device (ELD) that you think best fit your needs. Maybe you wanted low cost. Maybe you wanted to leverage your drivers’ phones. Maybe you saw some cool feature. We are now a year in to this new ELD mandate. Perhaps you’ve seen no change. Compliance is the same but the administration seems to takes more time. Safety is the same. Dispatch is the same. Costs are higher.

You are not alone. We now know that in spite of the increased Hours of Service compliance with mandatory ELDs, accident rates are trending in the wrong direction.

You’ve checked the box for “ELD compliance”. Now let’s consider what comes next.

Fleet technology is nothing new. I’ve been involved in fleet technology since 1988, and there were those before me. Rockwell International started the movement in 1978 when they presented a National Academy of Sciences paper on a new device called a Tripmaster. By 1981, telematics was a product – even if it wasn’t called that. If you read “The Long Haul to Success” by JB Hunt, he credits this technology with growing his business. He took advantage of the chaos in the wake of the 1980’s deregulation environment. He found a way to cut costs and create predictability in his operations. I was there, as an owner-operator that lost business to JB Hunt. Once I figured out why I was losing my good loads, I decided to change careers and join the new telematics movement.

Can you do the same thing today? We have a disrupted environment. ELDs have changed operations more than expected. Good drivers are hard to find. Is this an opportunity or a reason to hunker down and pretend it’s all OK?

With the right information, it’s not as difficult as you might think to improve your operations. One of my clients and good friends looked at a long haul route from the east cost to the midwest. Drivers were driving as fast as the trucks would allow – 70 MPH. They were stopping for fuel, stopping again for breaks, and taking long breaks when they stopped. He incentivized his drivers to slow down 10 MPH and added approved fuel stops as part of their digital route – building in rest time at each fuel stop. The result was an increase of 1 MPG, and an increase in on time deliveries.

Let’s discuss how the right technology can give you good information. Some areas to look at for return on investment;

Fuel. Alternative fuels are not just about being green or pure fuel cost per mile – although both are important. It’s also about down time. Many of our customers report lower maintenance costs with the absence of diesel engines’ aftertreatment systems. How do you measure down time? What is the impact on your operations in terms of time and miles when a truck goes down?

Fuel consumption. Even with lower fuel costs, the 2018 ATRI report tells us fuel costs are 22% of an average fleet’s total operational costs. Even in today’s electronic trucks, the ATA’s Technology and Maintenance Council tells us a driver can affect fuel economy by up to 35% based in his or her driving habits.

  • Efficient Routing. ATRI (the American Transportation Research Institute) tells us the average trucking fleet burns 15% of their fuel traveling out of route.
  • Engine idle. The Argonne National Laboratory tells us that the average truck wastes 1830 gallons of diesel annually idling, an average of 6 hours a day. This 6 hours of idle equals 42 miles of engine wear, and contributes $4.41/day to engine overhaul costs. The average diesel engine pulling 10 HP in accessories at 800 RPM burns 1 gallon per hour.
  • Speed control. Every 1 MPH in excess of 55 MPH increases fuel consumption 2.2%.
  • Rapid accelerations and decelerations. It takes energy measured in BTUs to accelerate. This energy is scrubbed off as heat every time the brakes are applied. Efficient drivers are gentle on both acceleration and deceleration.
  • The productivity costs of slowing down your fleet is not linear. An ATA study tells us that slowing your trucks allowed top speed by 10 MPH only results in a 7 MPH decrease in average speed.

Environmental. Idling trucks in the US emit annually an estimated 10 million tons of CO2, 50,000 tons of NOX, and 2000 tons of particulates. Plus – more fuel equals more emissions. Increase fuel efficiency, decrease emissions. A 10 MPH average speed decrease results in an 18% decrease in NOX emissions.

Routing and Dispatching. Routing and dispatching must be joined. Planning is great, but not if the drivers don’t know about it. Great dispatch is good – but what if the drivers are not given the best plan? Do you need all those trucks? Are you keeping your customers happy, while minimizing time and distance. Are you staying on time, minimizing out of route stops?

  • We estimate the average fleet has 15% more trucks than needed on a daily basis. The costs of owning a truck contribute up to 40% of overall operating costs for a fleet.
  • Efficient routing and dispatching maximizes your drivers’ productive time. Help your drivers plan and maximize their 13.5 hour workday.
  • Efficient and predictable dispatch keeps drivers happy, and reduces turnover. The more drivers’ schedules are flipped, less quality rest.

Maintenance. Vehicle maintenance costs are directly correlated to speed. When increasing average speed from 55 MPH to 65 MPH;

  • Tire wear increases 5% – 16%, depending on GVW.
  • Engine time to overhaul decreases 10% – 15%.
  • 15% increase in oil consumption.
  • 15% decrease in brake life.

Safety. It is hard to measure the savings of accidents that you don’t have. But it is clear that efficient operations improve safety. Minimizing unnecessary time and distance on the road also reduces exposure. Driving for fuel efficiency is also safe driving. Efficient and predictable dispatch increases rest and improves morale. When you start to monitor drivers’ top speed, they can sometimes try to make it up in towns and construction zones. Measuring actual speed versus posted speed limits lets you know how your trucks are being operated when lots of eyes are on your vehicles. Event Analysis can help defend your drivers and your company if an incident does happen.

What are your thoughts?  Looking for the right technology for your fleet?  Let me know.