HDT Editor in Chief explores what questions still remain about ELDs.

HDT Editor in Chief explores what questions still remain about ELDs.

Graphic: HDT

Part of my job is keeping an eye on how the digital content on our website is performing. Looking at what topics are garnering the most visits can help us see trends and better plan upcoming articles, videos, webinars, etc.

One piece that continues to pop up in the top 20 or so is a 2017 article, “70 Answers to Top ELD Questions.” This was from a special print supplement we ran in HDT magazine, “The ELD Rule: Time to Comply.”

Honestly, I’m a bit surprised that more than five years later, this piece would still be so popular. Some of it is no longer relevant, and we’re planning an update. But much of it is still very applicable, from basics such as what is an electronic logging device to understanding exemptions and what to expect from enforcement.

Don't miss this episode of HDT Talks Trucking: Are Changes to ELD Rules in the Air?

That got me to thinking about what we’ve learned since that was first published — and about questions that remain.

First, how well have the rules worked? Have they kept drivers from cheating on hours of service rules?

According to FMCSA, a “false report of driver‘s record of duty status” is still one of the top five most-cited roadside violations. That sounds like a big “no” to the question of how well ELDs have worked, but Brandon Wiseman, owner and president of Trucksafe Consulting, sheds some more light on the question.

In his experience working with fleets on safety and compliance issues, Wiseman says, the majority of these violations aren’t what he would call deliberately falsified logs, but rather were due to a driver’s misunderstanding of the hours-of-service rules — especially misuse of personal conveyance status. (Which also probably explains why a 2018 article on “6 Things You Should Know About Personal Conveyance" is another that still regularly appears in our top stories stats.)

I’m not the only one who’s been musing on the topic of the ELD mandate recently. FMCSA last fall had some questions of its own. The agency asked for comments on some changes it was considering making to the ELD rules. That rulemaking docket garnered more than 1,300 comments.

One of the most significant things it asked about is the certification process, including whether the U.S. should go to a third-party certification like Canada did for its ELD mandate. It also had several questions about the process for revoking non-compliant ELDs from its list of registered self-certified ELDs. (The agency has revoked the self-certification of four ELDs so far this year.)

Have Mandatory ELDs Made the Trucking Industry Safer?

But probably the biggest question about the ELD mandate is: Has it made the industry any safer?

When it finalized the rule in 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimated that the ELD mandate would save an average of 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries each year.

Instead, truck-involved crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities have steadily gone up. Fatal crashes involving a large truck, per 100 million miles traveled by truck, increased by 5.4% from 2016 to 2020, according to the federal data (although one must keep in mind that government statistics define “large truck” as over 10,000 pounds, so it’s not just heavy-duty.).

Of course, unlike a controlled science experiment where you change a single variable in order to test your hypothesis, there are many other factors at play in truck crash numbers other than ELDs.

And here’s the thing about a lot of safety regulations: Compliance with safety regulations does not automatically equate to better safety.

Just ask Garth Pitzel, associate VP of safety and driver development at Bison Transport. Bison earned the Truckload Carriers Association’s top safety award for large carriers for the 13th year in a row.

He told me in an interview that before the company started turning around its safety program about 23 years ago, “all we worried about was compliance. We thought if you did the compliance, you'd be safe. Well, we had proof to say that that didn't work.”

What has worked for Bison? A program focused on empowering drivers and building a culture of safety.

What are your current questions about ELDs? Let me know and we’ll try to address them in our update.

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge

Editor and Associate Publisher

Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology.

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