The History of the ELD Mandate
Ever since 1938 drivers of commercial vehicles have been required to keep track of their hours of service (HOS.) The idea being that by tracking a driver’s hours you can limit the number of companies, and individuals, who stay on the road for too long. By doing this you are keeping fatigued drivers off the road and limiting the risk of serious accidents that could harm both the drivers as well as others who share the road with them. These logs have been called “paper logs.”
Accident investigators and safety advocates, however, have long complained that it's easy to change the paper logs or keep two different sets of records to evade restrictions on hours. This is why we now have a new federal mandate that will be taking effect December 18th, 2017 which will require all drivers to electronically record their hours behind the wheel, and electronic logging devices (ELDs) to be installed on all trucks built after 2000.
Those opposed to the ELDs say the companies that hire them to haul freight will be able to access the electronic logs and pressure drivers who haven't reached their limit of legally-allowed hours to stay on the road even if they want to rest.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), whose mission is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses, says that there are procedural and technical provisions designed to protect commercial truck and bus drivers from harassment resulting from information generated by the devices.
As a company that provides electronic fleet tracking we admittedly may be slightly biased, but we see numerous benefits of electronic logs and feel this new rule is one that will pay off for the industry and general public for years to come.
Are the Benefits Real?
On April 5, 2010, the FMCSA published a final rule that required motor carriers with significant HOS violations to install ELDs in their trucks. The final rule took effect on June 4, 2010. But then in June, OOIDA filed a lawsuit with U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit challenging the final rule and the Court cancelled the final rule.
Part of the reason for the court cancelling the rule was that the court noted that the FMCSA had not estimated the safety benefits of ELDs currently in use and how much ELDs increased compliance. So if you can’t prove that the benefits of ELDs are real, then you can’t mandate them.
2013 FMCSA Study
In 2013 the FMCSA completed and published a study on the potential safety benefits of drivers using ELD on a mandated basis. While smaller owner/operators were not included in the study, the results proved that FMCSA had been on the right track when they first sought to have ELDs mandated:
Trucks with ELDs had an 11.7% lower crash rate than non-ELD equipped trucks, and they also had a 5.1% lower preventable crash rate than trucks without ELDs.
With these figures the FMCSA estimated that by simply having electronic logging devices installed in trucks 26 lives can be saved every year and they can prevent over 560 injuries as well.
That’s each and every year.
For an industry where efficiency is key to profits, ELDs are a great way to increase efficiency, as well as boost profits. Based on assumptions stated by the FMCSA, paperwork savings per driver, per year, alone are estimated to include:
- Save $487 in drivers filling out Record of Duty Status.
- Save $56 in drivers submitting Record of Duty Status.
- Save $120 in clerks filing Record of Duty Status.
- Save $42 via the elimination of paper books.
That works out to be a total of $705 per year in just paperwork savings alone – and that’s a conservative estimate. All told, the safety administration estimates the electronic devices will provide a net savings of $1 billion a year, mostly through paperwork reductions.
With fewer accidents on the road, insurance claims also go down, and costs are further reduced.
While the ELD is going to be a requirement when it comes to your drivers logging their HOS, if companies institute a complete GPS fleet management system from Synovia you can up your safety and savings even more.
With a complete GPS fleet management system, you can see in real time if your drivers are driving the most efficient routes. You can also tell if there are cases of hard accelerating, or excessive idling, which can lead to increased fuel costs. Maintenance can be monitored so that vehicles get the right amount of scheduled and preventative maintenance, keeping them on the road making money.
Trucks that are in good working order also don’t break down on the side of the road, creating issues on the highway that can lead to accidents, or put your driver’s safety at risk.
Together, the right ELD tracking system and complete GPS fleet management system can keep drivers and trucks safely on the road as well as boost dollars going to the bottom line. If one of these arguments isn’t enough to justify ELDs the other sure should be.