- The number of accidents among carriers did not decrease after the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate went into effect last year, a recent study by Northeastern University and the University of Arkansas found.
- It did find compliance with hours of service (HOS) regulations increased. The share of inspections that resulted in HOS violations fell from 6% before the mandate to 3.8% during a light enforcement period and finally to 2.5% during a strict enforcement period.
- But this drop in HOS violations may have had the unintended consequence of making the roads less safe. The researchers observed an increase in unsafe driving behavior, especially for small carriers and independent owner-operators, after the mandate went into effect.
The U.S. Department of Transportation's HOS regulations and ELD mandate were designed to ensure fewer tired truckers on the road and fewer accidents as a result.
The smaller carriers saw large drops in HOS violations after the mandate took effect. Larger carriers were "practically unaffected" by the rule, the research found, largely because they were already electronically monitoring their drivers in this way before the regulation took effect.
But the rate of accidents increased across the board during the light enforcement period. Then it decreased — by 0.8% — once the strict enforcement period began. A correlation between the slightly reduced rate of accidents and the ELD mandate is weak at best, the researchers found.
"Collectively, 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," the paper said.
The study suggested accidents are a result of increased unsafe driving, such as speeding or changing lanes more often. "When enforcement becomes strict, we observe an increase in speeding" across all sized fleets, the paper said. "Drivers who were most impacted by the ELD mandate increased their driving intensity ... in response to the decrease in output caused by the mandate."
Individual owner-operators saw a 35.3% increase in unsafe driving violations after the enforcement entered the strict phase. Carriers with two to six trucks saw an increase of 17.5% during this same time.