The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, in a report to Congress on the cost and effectiveness of the electronic logging device mandate, said external factors since the implementation of ELDs have prevented the agency from determining the safety impacts of the devices.
The report to Congress was required by the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which directed the Secretary of Transportation to submit a report that, in addition to analyzing the cost and effectiveness of ELDs, also details the processes FMCSA uses to review driver logs recorded by ELDs, protect proprietary and personally identifiable information obtained from ELDs, and explain how an operator can challenge or appeal a violation notice issued by FMCSA relating to an ELD.
In analyzing the effectiveness of ELDs, FMCSA cited “confounding factors” -- the 2020 changes to hours-of-service rules, HOS exemptions issued in response to COVID-19, and the implementation of FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse – as “events that have occurred that have impacted the use of ELDs, safety, and HOS enforcement.” The agency added that the factors “have increased the challenges relating to any further analysis of the ELD mandate, making it difficult to tease out their individual safety impacts.”
According to Overdrive research conducted last year on crash rates before and after the ELD mandate, it's at least clear that truck-involved crashes, injuries and fatalities have been on the rise since the mandate took effect. Owner-operators generally feel the ELD mandate is at least in part to blame, with a whopping 87% of respondents to Overdrive polling noting negative safety impacts. Attendant to Overdrive's examination of the issue last Fall, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson echoed the message of this new report to Congress, in some ways. She believed that there “isn’t one factor" on which "you can place an increase or a decrease” in crashes and fatalities, and that there is “always a set of factors.”
FMCSA did note to Congress that since ELDs were implemented, the number of HOS violations recorded have decreased. According to the agency, in December 2017, 1.19% of driver inspections cited at least one HOS violation. By December 2021, that percentage was down to approximately 0.77%.
Another area where FMCSA has seen improvement since the mandate is with driver harassment and forced dispatch, according to the report. “Many drivers have anecdotally reported that the use of ELDs has prevented dispatchers from encouraging or forcing them to commit HOS violations." Operators paid by the mile represent a majority of OTR drivers, FMCSA said, though Overdrive's most recent compensation survey showed a majority of owner-operators paid percentage of the load. For per-mile-compensated drivers, the agency nonetheless contended, "improved documentation supported by ELDs helps reduce paycheck errors.”
FMCSA also said in its report that its ELD data-transfer system meets government data security and privacy standards, adding that its “ELD Submission Web Service received an ‘A+’ grade” during a security test conducted in February 2022.
Finally, on costs, FMCSA said its knowledge of ELD costs and benefits aligns with the estimates published in the ELD rule.
Among benefits estimated with the rule's publication were an annual 26 lives saved and more than 500 injuries avoided.