Key Takeaways

- In 2015, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration outlined new regulations for electronic logging devices (ELDs) used in the truck driving industry to improve highway safety.

- This article outlines the purpose and implementation of ELDs and what they were expected to provide truck drivers, their companies and regulators. Today, the ELD regulations are fully phased in, and, through interviews with truck drivers, the authors examine the problems these drivers experienced prior to, during and after ELD implementation.

- Finally, the authors examine the effectiveness of ELDs in improving trucking safety based on both the driver’s perspective and trucking crash data.

Truck driving safety has been tied to government regulations since 1937, when the first hours of service (HOS) laws were established (FMCSA, 2015). The rules outlined limits for drivers to improve safety. The main aspects of driving addressed over the years were driving time, duty time, off-duty time and at what point the overall window resets (FMCSA, 2015). Significant modern changes to the HOS laws started in 2003. From 2003 to 2008, several changes were made, such as requiring drivers to be off duty for 10 hours instead of 8, requiring a 34-hour break before a driver could start driving again, and setting a 14-hour duty period that was not extendable, meaning that drivers had to complete all driving for a day within a strict 14-hour window (FMCSA, 2015). The next major shift from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) came in 2015, when electronic logging devices were required in phases. There were three phases, spanning from December 2015 to December 2019, which started with awareness and ended with full compliance (U.S. DOT, 2015).

The continuous growth in regulations was a result of complex factors that affected safety, including the increased use of the U.S. highway system, improved vehicle technology and industry growth. These factors can be measured directly. The increased usage of roads can be measured by vehicle frequency. The speed of trucks on highways can also be captured. The volume of trucks, number of companies and goods hauled can all be captured. These can then be correlated to trends in crashes and fatalities to understand whether a change in regulations may make the trucking industry safer.

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