Commercial transportation industry insiders and commentators are questioning why recently released federal crash numbers indicate a notable spike in fatal large truck accidents during 2018 over the preceding year.
The focus on what is both figuratively and literally driving such dire outcomes is pronounced in wake of relevant crash statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in late October. The data prominently underscore these troubling points:
- A near 1% jump nationally in deadly accidents featuring large trucks (e.g., tractor trailers and assorted 18-wheel rigs)
- Largest number of large-truck occupant fatalities in three decades
Pundits might reasonably question why such perplexing numbers are emerging, especially given the exacting attention paid to safety-enhancing measures in recent years by industry principals and both federal and state regulators. Next-step accident-avoidance technology is being consistently developed and employed on scores of thousands of vehicles in the nation’s commercial fleet, and new rules/standards are guiding drivers in their behind-the-wheel behaviors.
It might just be that latter point that is a major source of trouble, states a principal with one trucking trade group. James Lamb of the Small Business Transportation Coalition recently stressed to Congress that the rising fatality rate coincides precisely with the implementation of electronic logging devices (ELDs) on commercial rigs that become compulsory from last year.
Lamb and other like-minded trucking industry spokespersons believe that the ELD regulations are putting undue pressures on drivers, whose pay is customarily linked with the number of miles they drive. Lamb states that drivers view the constant monitoring of ELDs as a distracting nemesis, with some of them “speeding recklessly since the ELD rule went into effect to beat the clock.”
Lamb’s organization urges immediate suspension of ELD dictates and regulators’ further scrutiny of driver-measurement tools.