Fatal crashes highlight safety, ELD


The driver wakes in a truck almost every day for years. He does his pre-trip with the experience of a seasoned professional, calls his wife and kids for a quick good morning while drinking instant coffee he heated in the microwave. It’s a day like any other and he cannot wait to be home again. He starts the rig up – the old Pete glides out of the truck stop with a destination: somewhere out west. It’s a gorgeous day on the interstate. That is, it’s a gorgeous day until the crash.

Every so often a trucker is involved in a fatal crash like the one that occurred in Canada recently which took the lives of 15 people, many of them members of a youth hockey team on their way to a game. We don’t know why it happened but there’s an investigation and the trucking company whose driver was involved in the crash is grounded for the time being as is standard procedure.

Commercial vehicle crashes in which there are fatalities illuminate the great dangers of our industry. Every day men and women drive a truck to pick up or drop off a load. We hope they do it safely as well as within legal limits. Still because we are human, there are road accidents.

Commercial drivers in USA are now under the ELD mandate as of April 1, 2018. Our neighbors up north in Canada will be on the ELD by 2020. While there are pros and cons to the digital device that tracks a drivers activities while in the driver’s seat, everything from on duty driving to off duty in berth, we can all agree it’s is here to stay. Despite very vocal voices against the ELD law passed by Congress, the best the Owner Operators Independent Drivers Association, or OOIDA, can hope for is minor adjustments in the complex hours-of-service the government regulates in order to ensure safety and avoid fata crashes caused by fatigued drivers.

The small mom and pop owner operators represented by OOIDA claim the ELD does not make the roads safer as it forces drivers to rest when they are not tired and drive when they are exhausted. The far biggest complaint is that the ELD and rigid hours-of-service make driving for a living less lucrative for the little guys. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, or FMCSA, the government regulator of the trucking industry now relies on the electronic data logs to enforce hour-of-service rules they believe were largely disregarded while drivers were on paper logs. Commercial Drivers found with violations during inspections can have points added to their Compliance, Safety and Accountability or CSA rating and be put out-of-service for 10 hours.

The mandate exacerbates a capacity crunch with the ratio of one truck for every 12 loads being cited often. Indeed, this supply/demand equation could work in favor of the owner operator. Only time will tell if the ELD prevents crashes as was intended.