Are More Truckers Driving Carelessly Now?

Electronic logging devices that record truckers’ working hours were legally mandated in December 2017 in an effort to reduce fatal truck crashes.  While more commercial truckers are now adhering to federal hours of service rules, more apparently are engaging in other risky driving behaviors and so the number of catastrophic trucking accidents hasn’t fallen.

Fatigued truckers can cause serious crashes.  That’s why the maximum hours they can work during the week – as well as rest periods – are limited by federal law.  Until late 2017, commercial truck drivers recorded their working hours in paper log books.  The problem with this system is that many big rig drivers had been found cooking the books.  They recorded their actual hours in one log book while keeping a separate log they could show law enforcement.

By manipulating the system, truckers risked getting dangerously tired.  Therefore, the law now requires all drivers to record their hours electronically, making it much tougher to dodge federal Hours of Service rules.

Fewer Hours of Service Violations by Truckers

In one way the ELD mandate appears to be working.  Adherence to Hours of Service rules by commercial truckers is up.  But the number of truck crashes remains about the same; and in some instances went up.

A new study (Scott, Alex & Balthrop, Andrew & W Miller, Jason. 2019 “Did the Electronic Logging Device Mandate Reduce Accidents?”) offers an explanation.

Researchers reviewed truck inspection and crash data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  They found that more truckers were following Hours of Service rules, as violations fell as much as 43 percent.

However, researchers could find no evidence that deadly truck crashes were reduced with the ELD mandate, especially for operators of smaller fleets.  Serious accidents for bigger trucking companies actually went up, as they largely already were employing ELDs prior to the new law.

More Truck Driver Tickets for Risky Driving

And there’s a good reason for this phenomenon.  The study determined that violations for risky driving by truckers increased 33 percent since the ELD mandate took effect.  More specifically, the number of truck drivers who were speeding jumped 31 percent.

In greater numbers, truckers, who can no longer fudge their paper hour log books, are compensating by driving faster.  Tired truck drivers can cause serious accidents.  But so too can truck drivers who exceed the speed limit.

Opponents of the ELD mandate warned of this possibility, and unfortunately they may have been right.  But it’s not the new mandate’s fault.  Commercial truck drivers have a responsibility to follow the law – even when it’s a change they don’t like – and driving safely.

If you or a loved one was a victim of a serious trucking accident, contact a truck accident lawyer to hold accountable all those responsible for your life-changing injuries or unimaginable loss.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog February 7, 2019