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October 18, 2018

FMCSA Report on Benefits of Hours of Service Recorders

Fatigue is a major contributing factor in many trucking wrecks.  Extensive periods on duty, irregular work schedules, health issues and poor sleeping conditions make fatigue a definite concern in trucking operations and safety.  An essential way to limit fatigued drivers from entering the roadways is through hours-of-service (HOS) regulations.  Normally, drivers used written logs to record their HOS.  However, trucking companies are moving toward required electronic HOS recorders.  HOS recorders have been shown to increase safety as they help to prevent truck drivers from falsifying written logs.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a report in 2015 on the safety benefits of electronic HOS recorders in commercial trucking vehicles.  The FMCSA studied trucks that already utilized the electronic HOS recorders and found that they had 11.7% less crashes than the non-electronic HOS recorder group.  Additionally, the study showed that the electronic HOS recorder group had a 5.1% reduction in preventable crashes than the non-electronic HOS recorder group. The study incorporated information from 11 companies which together drove a total of 15.6 billion miles and had a total of 82,943 crashes and 970 HOS violations over a five-year period.  The report ultimately found that the electronic HOS equipped trucking group was 53% less likely to have HOS violations compared to the non-electronic HOS group.

Following the 2015 findings of the FMSCA electronic HOS recorder study, the Federal Register published a rule mandating electronic logging devices for commercial motor vehicles.  Members of Congress have praised the new rule stating that, “[p]aper logs have been proven to be less accurate and easy to manipulate, allowing some drivers to evade safety restrictions on driving hours.”

The compliance date for the new rule was set for December 18, 2017.  This means that 2018 will be the first year where hard data can be analyzed to see the effects of electronic HOS recorders and their impact on trucking safety.  In the executive summary for the new rule, the Federal Register states: “[t]his new rule improves commercial motor vehicle (CMV) safety and reduces the overall paperwork burden for both motor carrier and drivers by increasing the use of ELDs within the motor carrier industry, which will, in turn, improve compliance with the applicable HOS rules.”

Ultimately, the FMSCA estimates that 1,844 crashes will be avoided and 26 lives will be saved each year by the implementation of this new rule.
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