Will Electronic Logging Devices (ELDS) Lead to Safer Highways and Freeways?
Since 1938 commercial truck drivers have been required to keep driving records known as logs. These logs for truck and bus drivers are kept to track the driver’s on and off duty times along with other information. However, since 1938 these records have been kept via pen and paper. While many, if not most, commercial truck and bus drivers are honest in their record-keeping, these manually recorded logs are extremely difficult and in some cases nearly impossible to verify. Since truck drivers are typically paid by the mile and more miles means a higher paycheck, there is a significant incentive to doctor these or even risk driving without an adequate time log.
However, a lot has changed since 1938. Perhaps most apparently, computerized technology and the ability to automate tasks that once required a human mind has changed how the world operates. Unfortunately, the benefits of automated technology have not yet fully penetrated into the trucking industry. FMCSA rulemaking and a final rule for mandatory installation of ELDs in certain trucks and commercial vehicles are slated to go into effect in 2018.
Effects the ELD Mandate Will Have on Commercial Motor Vehicles & Their Operators
The effective date for the mandatory ELD Rule is February 16, 2016, which is, as specified in the rule, 60 days following its publication in the Federal Register. The rule then does not take effect for two years following this date until December 18, 2017. However, the rule will be implemented in phases. With this first period being known as the Awareness and Transition Phase. During this phase drivers and trucking companies may voluntary transition to ELDs but must take steps to prepare for the transition. During this initial period, drivers may continue to make use of any of the following driving log methods:
- Paper logs
- Logging software
- AOBRDS (Automatic On-Board Recording Devices)
- ELDs that are registered and approved on FMCSA’s website
From December 18, 2017, to December 16, 2019, the second phase, the Phased-In Compliance Phase, will occur. During this period commercial drivers who are already making use of AOBRDs (automatic onboard recording devices) before the official rule compliance date of December 18, 2017, may continue to use AOBRDs. If an AOBRD was not already installed, the driver must utilize a certified ELD.
From December 17, 2019, on, all drivers are required to use a certified ELD.
Accidents and Reports from Iowa City Illustrate Continuing Debate Over ELDs
A recent KCRG-TV9 article concerning recent Iowa City-area commercial truck accidents highlights the problems presented by paper logging, but also explains some of the reservations truckers have regarding the switch to ELDs. The article states that in 2015, there were 995 semi-truck-involved crashes on Iowa’s interstate system. Reports from the Iowa State Police show that in 3 crashes producing 33 injuries and 3 fatalities, the truck drivers were at-fault for driving in excess of the speed limit of losing control of the semi.
Iowa State Trooper Jim Trainor who was interviewed for the article states that he estimates that up to 40 percent of truckers aren’t keeping accurate time in their log books. Thus, the implication is that many of these drivers are exceeding hours of service limits and perhaps driving while fatigued. Trainor states that “I’ve had guys before where they don’t even bother filling their log book out.”
While approximately 80 percent of truck drivers are still using paper logs to track their driving and hours of service, this is certain change significantly in anticipation Phased-In Compliance Phase starting in December 2017. While many argue that the ELDs will force truckers to abide by limits since they cannot be easily disabled without a record of the action, others dispute this assertion. Some belief that drivers may drive too fast and aggressively to cover ground during their on-duty windows. Others fear repercussions for being unable to locate truck stops and other legal places to park before their driving period expires.
Contact Our Truck Accident Lawyers If You Have Experienced a Severe Injury after a crash
However, it does seems that the logging devices are having a positive impact for at least some trucking companies. One firm interviewed for the article reported that “We thought we were safe when we were without the ELD’s, just on paper logs, but we became a much better company when we got on the ELD’s.” Thus, anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that ELDs will improve safety, but a more comprehensive view of the issue will probably not be available until sometime in later 2017 or early 2018.