Researchers at the University of Arkansas say that crashes involving semi trucks have actually increased since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate went into effect.

On December 16, the report “Trucking Accidents Up After Electronic Logging Device Mandate, Study Finds” was released by the Supply Chain Management Research Center at the University of Arkansas.

Researchers analyzed FMCSA data from after the ELD Mandate went into effect in December 2017 with a “hard enforcement” date of April 1, 2018. They say that “the federal electronic logging-device mandate has not reduced accidents and its implementation correlates with an increase in unsafe driving incidents.

“Surprisingly, the number of accidents for the most-affected carriers — those operators for whom the federal mandate was intended — did not decrease,” said Andrew Balthrop, research associate in the Sam M. Walton College of Business. “In fact, following the implementation of the mandate, accidents among small carriers and independent owner-operators increased, relative to large asset-based carriers.” 

Researchers specifically examined how the ELD rule affected three specific safety-related outcomes: 

  1. Compliance with reporting hours of service
  2. Accident counts
  3. Frequency of unsafe driving

Researchers found that the ELD Mandate did increase driver compliance with reporting hours of service, especially among owner-operators and smaller carriers who had not already been using ELDs. Many large carriers had used ELDs prior to the mandate and compliance rates were not much affected.

Perhaps the most worrisome finding is that for most trucking companies, there was a significant uptick in crashes after the ELD Mandate went into effect.

“For most carriers — that is, all categories other than the carriers with more than 50,000 trucks — the number of accidents actually increased after the federal mandate took effect. Again, this was especially true for independent owner-operators. They experienced an 11.6% increase in accidents, and carriers with two to 20 trucks had a 9% increase,” researchers said in a news release.

Researchers say that unsafe driving incidents also increased after the ELD Mandate went into effect:

“The researchers’ analysis of unsafe driving infractions for different sizes of carriers during the light and strict enforcement periods showed that these also increased compared to infractions before the mandate took effect. This was true for all size categories, but the increases were greater for small and medium-sized carriers who had not been using an electronic logging device before the mandate.”

“Our results indicate the electronic logging device mandate did not immediately achieve its goal of reducing accidents,” Balthrop said. “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.”

“The electronic logging-device mandate coincided with an increase in unsafe driving and speeding citations among truck drivers, and this likely caused an increase in accidents,” Balthrop said. “The stricter hours-of-service enforcement seems to have led more drivers to try to compress their routes into the time allotted.”

A report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in late October 2021 found that the traffic fatality rate hit the “largest six-month increase ever recorded in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System’s history” from January through June 2021. The report did not differentiate between commercial vehicle fatalities and passenger vehicle fatalities, but found that the U.S. in on track to lose 40,000 people to road fatalities in 2021.

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