FMCSA Boss Makes Case Why ELD Mandate is Not to Blame For Rise in Big Rig Accidents
Washington D.C. – The Acting Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is flatly denying assertions that the electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate is to blame for the recent alarming increase in commercial motor vehicle (CMV) accidents.
The FMCSA hosted its virtual Truck Safety Summit on Wednesday which featured more than two-dozen panelists and speakers from a cross section of the industry, including trucking company and association executives, drivers, law enforcement officials, and safety advocates.
The Agency said the Summit was conducted in response to alarming data released last fall by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing trucker crash deaths rose to a 30-year high in 2018.
Data released by NHTSA earlier this year indicates the problem is only worsening as trucker crash deaths are expected to rise even higher when the final numbers for 2019 are released later this year.
The concerning rise in trucker crash deaths happen to coincide with the full implementation and enforcement of the controversial ELD mandate.
During a public Q&A session, Jim Mullen was asked directly about the impact to safety that the ELD mandate has had.
The question posed to Mr. Mullen was:
The ELD [mandate] was touted as saving 26 lives per year. Today it has revealed many violations for simply “form violations.” Just because a driver is compliant does not mean he is safe. When is someone going to admit that the ELD mandate is not necessary?
Mr. Mullen responded by asserting the mandate has actually been an effective safety tool.
“I would suggest that a simplistic view [that] just because accident frequencies or fatalities have gone up, therefore ELDs don’t provide a safety benefit… I think that’s a thin analysis. There’s all types of contributing factors to accidents,” the Acting Administrator stated.
Despite assurances by the Agency and supporters of the mandate that it would save 26 lives per year, the actual real-world results so far have not born this out.
In fact, a bombshell academic study on the topic released in February of 2019 concluded crashes involving commercial big rigs actually increased after the implementation of the mandate.
Researchers at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business found that while crashes among mega carrier trucks decreased, crashes among independent owner-operators increased as much as 3.5% and 1.8% for carriers with two to six trucks.
When all the data from large carriers, small carriers and independent owner-operators was factored together, researchers concluded, “these numbers do not point to any obvious reduction in accidents due to the ELD mandate, and in some cases suggest a possible increase in accidents for those carriers most affected by the mandate.”
However, despite this troubling data, the ELD mandate was not made an area of focus for the Agency during the Summit.
In fact, not a single panelist or moderator made reference to the study or its findings mentioned above.
Critics of the mandate such as the Owner Operator Independent Driver’s Association, National Association of Small Trucking Companies, Small Business in Transportation Coalition, TruckerNation, United Transportation Association and the United States Transportation Alliance argue that despite the mandate leading to a drastic reduction in Hours of Service (HOS) violations, it has not led to safer results.
When asked specifically about this, Mr. Mullen did acknowledge that ensuring compliance with HOS rules, which is the primary function of the ELD, does not equate to safer outcomes.
“With that said, I don’t know that anybody is going to argue with the general premise that just because you’re in compliance with most regulations that you’re going to be safe,” he said.
Further, he expressed the Agency looks at the ELD mandate “holistically” when analyzing safety and accident data.