Truck related fatalities have begun to rise after several years of steady decline. That is despite all of the OEMs building safer trucks. Stopping distances are improving. Anti lock brakes and stability control are improving handling during hard brakes. We now have collision mitigation systems. Many new trucks have lane departure warning systems. They also may have outward and inward facing cameras. The vehicles themselves are safer.
ELD usage is on the rise. So are crashes. That gives credence to the argument the ELDs put drivers in a hurry, thus increasing crashes. When I first knew that I was getting “pinged” and that my trucking company was using the GPS in the reefer units to self enforce the HOS rules, I found myself hurrying. I got over it. When I got my first ELD I became more time aware. I still am. I may bump it up a notch, but not to the point of increasing accident risk, or violating speed limits. I do believe that some drivers will act in an unsafe manner. Drivers should be constantly instructed that an HOS violation is minor compared to a moving violation or a crash. Eventually drivers will calm down, and learn not to plan on the edge. Remember – Safety first! Safety Always!
The anti ELD crowd has legitimate ammunition to state that ELDs don't make us safer. Here is the problem. The automobile crash and fatality incidents have also been on the rise. Cars don't have ELDs. They too have been built to be safer. I see younger drivers, especially in adverse weather driving far more aggressively than we could drive cars from the seventies. It isn't the vehicles. Cars and trucks are safer than ever.
If crash rates are rising and vehicles are safer, it must be the drivers. Budget cuts in education have all but eliminated drivers education programs in high school. Training requirements for professional drivers are inadequate. Professional drivers training standards have always been inadequate. Drivers Ed programs in High School have been disappearing for a while now. While increased training would be a good thing, lack of training does not explain the recent rise.
Truck crashes have risen. Automobile accidents rate has risen at a faster rate. What do we all have in common, but is used more in cars than trucks? The logical answer is the smart phone. Truckers are required to use hands free devices and have either one touch or voice command. Car drivers are not. As drivers, we fear a large ticket if we “play” with our phones. Automobile drivers seen fearless. I think every trucker has seen car drivers texting while driving.
Safety for all of us comes down to personal responsibility. Professional drivers should not let anything - ELD, or smart phone come between us and safety. We can't control others. Drive your vehicle safely. Do not let any gadget take your attention away from your number one goal – safety. Don't depend on technology to save you. Safety is your responsibility. Safety First! Safety Always!