How Electronic Logging is Making the U.S. Transportation Industry Safer

Tractor-trailer speeding down the road

Truck operators often find themselves having to work long hours in order to complete delivery orders. A previous post on SafeStart discussed how fatigued truck drivers who go beyond their set hours on a shift-share the same behind-the-wheel capacity as those who drink and drive. It’s no surprise therefore that Truckacccidents.org revealed that approximately 30% of all commercial truck accidents are actually credited to driver exhaustion. Considering that most of these trucks are towing cargo, the drivers are undoubtedly putting other motorists in danger.

The demands on a truck driver’s health are one of the key reasons why the truck industry is facing a recruitment problem, which in turn is leading to overdriving. The National Public Radio reports that one of the reasons why the industry is experiencing a shortage of drivers is because of the extended hours that come with a trucker's lifestyle. The more troubling reality: truck drivers may have health issues such as undiagnosed sleep apnea. This disorder can bring a slew of health issues that include high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and depression, just to name a few. Aside from being tired, many truck operators shouldn’t be handling large commercial vehicles given their compromised health conditions, which many are not even aware of.

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented regulations that aimed to slash truck driver fatigue. The main guideline was to limit a truck driver’s workweek to 70 hours to make sure they have sufficient rest every time they begin a shift. It was estimated that this measure would prevent up to 560 injuries and 1,400 crashes annually, saving 19 lives in the process. The current ruling allows for an 11-hour daily driving limit and requires truck drivers to have two 30-minute breaks during the first 8 hours.

Another promising remedy that can safeguard drivers from unfortunate accidents and make the roads safer is by keeping tabs on their shift through automatic logging technology. In December 2017, the FMCSA decreed that all commercial vehicles must have installed devices known as electronic logging devices (ELDs). These high-tech gadgets not only render documentation of the trip details paperless but they also record everything that goes on in every commercial truck trip, helping managers and operators monitor every mile. The information is also monitored in real time, so when adjustments have to be made, changes can be immediately implemented.

There is also a sense of transparency that comes with this type of documentation as fleet managers, truck operators and even road safety governing organizations can access the information to evaluate the truck’s journey. In addition, Fleetmatics explains that ELDs track the hours of service (HoS), ensuring that every driver does not exceed the limits set by the FMSCA. This capability plays a crucial role in making sure that truck operators get the required rest in order to be fit to drive long hours on the road and not be a possible road safety hazard. Through maximizing such technological advancements, drivers in the transportation and logistics industry will be more fit when it comes to handling commercial trucks. This will also combat the problem of overworked drivers on the roads.

Currently, only the U.S. has a mandate that requires commercial companies to digitally track their fleet. If the new ruling makes a significant dent in road safety, it is likely that other countries will follow suit. Driver fatigue increases the chances of human error, which in turn increases the chances of fatal accidents. During the course of an 11-hour day, it’s not reasonable to expect an operator to remain fully alert over the course of several hundred miles—even with two 30-minute breaks and a sound night’s sleep. They’ll need active self-monitoring skills to recognize their own limits. When coupled, tech solutions and self-awareness training can drastically reduce the number of fatigued truckers on the road.

About the Author: RoadandJen is a budding motorsports writer whose interests include graphic design and sports.