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Recent study finds ELD mandate had no significant impact on crash rates

  Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves
Image: Jim Allen/FreightWaves

While the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate has indeed improved hours of service (HOS) compliance, a recent study found that the mandate’s potential safety impacts, which are often discussed, have not come to pass.

Spireon hosted a webinar in collaboration with FreightWaves to delve further into the study’s findings. The webinar also looked at where carriers that are still using automatic onboard recording devices (AOBRDs) stand just nine months out from the deadline to switch over to ELDs.

The webinar, dubbed “The State of the Industry and the ELD Mandate: The Verdict One Year Later,” featured Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, and FreightWaves’ Chief Insight Officer Dean Croke.

Researchers from three different universities, including Northeastern University, University of Arkansas and Michigan State University, completed a study in January about whether or not the ELD mandate reduced crashes.

The researchers looked at millions of driver inspections between January 2017 and September 2018. They also looked at all the crashes submitted by the states to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to Osiecki.

The results were broken down into the three categories, including compliance, crashes and driver behaviors. The results of the study are broken down below.

Findings: Compliance

  • The mandate increased HOS compliance overall.

  • Overall, the percentage of inspections with intentional violations dropped from 6 percent before the mandate to 3.8 percent during light enforcement, a 37 percent reduction, and then to 2.9 percent during strict enforcement, a 52 percent reduction.

  • For owner-operators, the percentage of inspections with violations fell from 10.7 percent to 8 percent to 6 percent.

  • For larger carriers, the percentage of inspections with violations went from 0.85 percent to 0.89 percent to 0.75 percent.

Findings: Crashes

  • The mandate has had no significant effect on crash counts.

  • Weekly crashes prior to mandate averaged 1,717.

  • During the light enforcement period, weekly crashes increased to 1,912, or 11.4 percent.

  • During the strict enforcement period, weekly crashes dropped to 1,703, or 0.8 percent.

Findings: Driver behaviors

  • Owner-operators and drivers for small carriers were cited much more frequently for unsafe driving behaviors after the mandate.

  • During the light enforcement period, owner-operators committed 22.7 percent more unsafe driving violations.

  • During the strict enforcement period, owner-operators committed 35.3 percent more unsafe driving violations.

  • Comparatively, drivers for large carriers saw a 1.8 percent decrease in these violations during light enforcement and a 5.5 percent increase during strict enforcement.  

“I think the theory is that if there is some negative productivity impact from the use of ELDs, one way to deal with the productivity loss is to change the behavior of the driver, meaning speeding up, making more lane changes and just being more aggressive overall,” Osiecki said.

Osiecki noted that many in the transportation industry are waiting for the FMCSA to chime in on ELDs and crash reduction.

“Even though this safety related research was done by universities, I think many are waiting for FMCSA to show us what they have as it relates to crash reductions,” he said. “They’ve told us about compliance, but are they looking hard at crash counts? If they are, what will those studies show going forward?”

Regardless of the devices’ impact on crash rates, they are not going away anytime soon.

A 2019 C.J. Driscoll and Associates report, “U.S. Mobile Resource Management Systems Market Study,” found that the mobile resource management market has experienced strong growth over the last several years. A significant portion of that growth has been attributed to the ELD mandate.

“The ELD mandate has brought many new suppliers into the mobile resource management market, really to try to take advantage of the mandate and try to grab some market share.” Osiecki said. “The mandate has really exploded the market.”

In addition to new players who have entered the market, Osiecki noted that some fleet management solutions providers who used to focus primarily on local or delivery fleets have expanded into the truckload space in order to take advantage of the new demand.

It is no surprise that the ELD mandate has had a strong impact on the market, as about 97 percent of truckload carriers, private interstate carriers and owner-operators have adopted a telematics solutions, according to Osiecki’s presentation.

However, not all of those telematics solutions are ELDs. Fleets that were using AOBRDs before light enforcement began in December 2017 were allowed to keep using those devices. Those fleets, which make up a large portion of the industry, will be required to switch over to ELDs mid-December 2019.

“About 50 to 60 percent of carriers who have a full GPS fleet management solution, and adopted that early on, adopted the AOBRDs for the hours of service compliance element,” Osiecki said. “As of January 2019, the total number of AOBRDs in service still exceeded the number of ELDs.”

AOBRDs tend to be more popular among large carriers, who adopted telematics solutions earlier, while owner-operators and smaller carriers tend to have ELDs. This is because many of those companies did not utilize telematics solutions before the ELD mandate took effect.

A January 2019 survey by CarrierLists came up with only slightly different numbers, finding that just over 40 percent of fleets surveyed reported using AOBRDs, while almost 60 percent were currently using ELDs.

“I think that is reflective of the fact that the one to 19 fleet size represented over 50 percent of the sampling,” Croke said. “I think if [CarrierLists] had asked the larger truckload carriers, the reverse might be the case.”

Of the fleets that responded to the CarrierLists survey, 51.52 percent had between one and 19 trucks. Only 9.09 percent of respondents had over 100 trucks.

While over half of the fleets still using AOBRDs said they expect their productivity to remain the same after making the switch to ELDs, 18.87 percent said they expect productivity to decrease slightly and 20.75 percent said they expect productivity to decreased greatly.

“That would be representative of the fleets that are allowed to move around truck stops or distribution centers on the old AOBRD methodology, using the more expanded geofence thresholds,” Croke said. “We think overall it will even out.”

When the carriers still using AOBRDs were asked when they plan to convert to ELDs, just over 50 percent said they planned to wait until the fourth quarter of 2019. Just over 30 percent planned to switch in the third quarter, and less than 20 percent planned to switch in the first and second quarters combined.

“I would say, if you’re a carrier, that’s probably not advisable. You certainly should be talking to your ELD vendors and telematics providers much sooner than that,” Croke said. “I think we saw the same sorts of things with the ELD mandate, where carriers waited until the last minute to sign up.”


  1. Galen Cress

    drivers don’t get into crashes because they’re tired. They get into crashes because of poor training, inexperience, and being idiots.

  2. Dan Fulwiler

    "The researchers looked at millions of driver inspections between January 2017 and September 2018."
    There are less than two million truckers on the road, do you seriously expect us to believe you looked at "millions of inspections" all taking place within just a 20 month time span?
    You are implying every single trucker has been inspected.
    What a crock of hooey.
    Fake news, fake reporting,made-up facts. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  3. Eddie

    I haven’t read such garbage in my life! As a one truck operation I solely take on my shoulders the respect of the road,customers,shippers,receivers and brokers as well as fellow drivers on the road! To say the small companies are the problem is such liberal BS that points the finger at the small business of America and makes public and government think big companies are safe and operate legally! I’ve seen and heard several accounts of big company drivers and the horror stories they tell would deter a guy to stay away from driving anything! Go ahead and say the small business is the problem! Facts are facts! Talk to the big company drivers instead of a P.R person for them! The real voice is the drivers! Oh and to be told by Iowa DOT officer that they are to target small company drivers and not to give any mercy on speed violation and to ignore big company drivers of speed violations is clearly a reason for questions asked! Seems like someone in Washington has told them to “raise the numbers” of small companies! Sounds like a political game!

  4. Rob

    ELD’s weren’t supposed to reduce crashes, they were meant to ensure compliance to current HOS regs. Now that FMCSA and all of the anti truck lobbyists can no longer say truckers are scamming the system through paper logs, FMCSA can read the data and can see what responsible truckers have long been saying… Your HOS rules as written work AGAINST safety. A Professional driver should be able to make their own determination as to when to take a break without having to forever give up their time and earning potential because of a continuous 14 hour rule.

  5. David

    So, it looks like maybe the trucker himself actually knows more about safety than all the educated idiots trying to control the trucking industry……maybe the eld prevented a few hos violations,. More than likely clerical errors or some other insignificant information on the actual paper book and less likely any safety issue about excessive hours…..I’ll keep my paper log book and concentrate on actual driving safety instead of clerical inaccuracies…

Comments are closed.

Ashley Coker Prince

Ashley is interested in everything that moves, especially trucks and planes. She works with clients to develop sponsored content that tells a story. She worked as reporter and editor at FreightWaves before taking on her current role as Senior Content Marketing Writer. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.