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ELDs and dashcams, unpopular with some, have improved safety (with video)

Both dashcams and electronic logging devices (ELDs) may be controversial with drivers, but Jay Gustafson of Echo Global Logistics believes both have contributed to greater safety on the roads.

Gustafson, senior vice president of market solutions at Echo, made the remarks when he sat down with Anthony Petitte, the CEO and founder of Truckpark Inc., as part of the FreightWaves LIVE @HOME virtual conference on Thursday.

Speaking about technology in general, Gustafson said there had been “a nice evolution in this space that helps create a safe environment.” The ELD mandate, he added, was “first and foremost” on that list.

Gustafon said that in the 3PL community where he works, there had been a feeling that the ELD mandate, which fully went into effect in late 2019, “was going to be detrimental to capacity.” “In my mind, there have been some scenarios where I’ve noticed changes in behavior, but I think it’s more of a non-event from a capacity standpoint,” Gustafson said.

But by providing a steady stream of data that can be interpreted with an eye on safety, Gustafson said it has “started to just bring this conversation of safety more into the limelight.”

“I have seen lots of benefits from the ELD mandate, and all of that has been focused on safety,” he added.

As far as dashcams, which record the driver as opposed to the camera systems that record the truck’s surrounding area, Gustafson said there have historically been numerous times when there’s a collision, “and the party that ends up getting blamed is the driver and it’s not always their fault.” Some of those accidents might be blamed on fatigue, but that charge can be pushed back against with dashcam footage that shows fatigue to not be a factor.

It also has the advantage of modifying behavior by capturing actions by drivers that might contribute to safety issues, Gustafson said. 

The potential for conflict between safety and the pressures of a competitive market is one that always looms in the background, according to Gustafson. Freight markets are strong now, he said, but at times when “it is tough to find freight, you find some trucking companies that are maybe willing to roll the dice in some situations to get the right load and work a little bit outside the boundaries of what they would normally do.”

He described it as “that free market aspect of our industry that inherently drives different ways of approaching this.”

That sort of approach by some companies, Gustafson said, contrasts sharply with companies that regularly have drivers that reach 3 million or 4 million miles without an accident. “And then you have other drivers that are different,” he added. 

Ultimately, a focus on safety and avoiding driver distraction — another subject of discussion in the chat — pays off with shippers. What the Echo executive called his company’s “shipper partners … expect a really high-quality carrier network in terms of service, communication and also in the area of safety.”

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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.