Study finds trucking accidents up after ELDs
On its way to publication in the Journal of Operations Management last year, a study by researchers at the University of Arkansas previously reported on in 2019 in Overdrive ended up highlighting a significant outcome of the electronic logging device mandate implemented fully in 2017-’18.
The mandate, the study concluded, did not result in any reduction of accidents. Its implementation correlated, rather, with an increase in both accidents and in recorded unsafe driving incidents, specifically speeding.
Researchers found that compliance with federal hours of service regulations has significantly improved since the ELD mandate took effect in December 2017, especially for small carriers and independent owner-operators the researchers viewed as most impacted by the mandate. Large carriers, researchers assumed, had been using ELDs or their predecessor, the automatic on-board recording device, long before the mandate.
Despite higher levels of hours of service compliance, researchers found that the number of accidents increased for most carriers after the ELD mandate took effect. That was especially true for independent owner-operators, who saw an 11.6% increase in accidents, and small fleets of between two and 20 trucks, with a 9% increase, the study found.
An analysis of unsafe driving violations for different sizes of carriers showed an increase compared to violations before the mandate took effect. This was true for all sizes of carriers, the researchers said, but the increases were greater for small- and medium-sized carriers who had not been using ELDs prior to the mandate.
“Our results indicate the electronic logging device mandate did not immediately achieve its goal of reducing accidents,” said Andrew Balthrop, research associate in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. “Drivers have reacted in ways the FMCSA has not fully anticipated, and these behaviors should be accounted for as the FMCSA revisits their hours-of-service policies.”
ince the mandate was handed down, FMCSA has responded in some measures to operators’ calls for hours of service flexibility by adding a 7/3 sleeper berth split in addition to the previously-allowed 8/2 split; adding the ability to pause the 14-hour on-duty clock for up to three hours a day via those split regs; and allowing drivers to take their 30-minute break in on-duty, non-driving status within the first eight hours of drive time rather than the first eight hours of on-duty time in off-duty status; and more.
The ELD mandate coincided with an increase in unsafe driving and speeding citations among truck drivers, and this likely caused an increase in accidents, Balthrop added. Researchers concluded that the stricter hours of service enforcement seems to have led more drivers to try to compress their routes into the time allotted.