Truck fatalities are at the highest rate since 1988. Are ELDs to blame?

One group called for the immediate suspension of ELD regulations after the crash data was released.

Trucking Fatality Rate

Startling new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that large truck occupants are dying in crashes at the highest rate in decades following the implementation of Electronic Logging Device (ELD) regulations intended to increase highway safety.

On October 22, the NHTSA released a report on crash fatalities in 2018 — the first full year since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) required most truckers to start using ELDs to track Hours of Service compliance in December of 2017. The FMCSA promised that the ELD Mandate would “help create a safer work environment for drivers.”

While there was a 2.4% decrease in crash fatalities for all drivers, the NHTSA data showed that fatal crashes involving large trucks actually increased by 0.9%.

Additionally, large truck occupant fatalities also increased by 0.8% to 885 in total for 2018. This marks the highest rate of large truck occupant crash deaths since 1988, when 911 people lost their lives.

James Lamb of the trucking trade group Small Business in Transportation Coalition wrote to Congress in the wake of the release of the fatal crash data asking for the immediate suspension of ELD regulations. Lamb argued that ELDs encourage truckers to speed to try to beat the clock, which in turn leads to an increased number of crashes.

From Lamb’s letter to Congress:

In any event, whereas the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) had promised the industry and public that ELDs would save 26 lives per year, it now is evident this is not the case. Our members have reported to us that they have witnessed an increase in truck drivers speeding recklessly since the ELD rule went into effect to beat the clock, a clock that has now become controlled by machines.

While we neither condone cheating on paper logs nor speeding, we can understand truck drivers’ anxiety in that they are trying to avoid starvation because they are paid by the mile. We believe this is the reason for the increase in fatalities these past two years –rather than FMCSA’s projected decrease… in this, the ELD era. We therefore write to you both today to respectfully ask you to please immediately suspend the ELD mandate and direct FMCSA to further study this issue to determine whether the ELD rule is ripe for repeal. We believe this would immediately relieve the strain on the industry and protect the public from more fatalities in the remainder of 2019 and moving forward.

The NHTSA released preliminary crash fatality data for 2018 in June 2019 that also pointed toward an upward trend in truck crash fatalities in the first full year of the ELD Mandate.

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