Does a drop in hours-of-service violations mean safer roads? The jury may still be out

Paperwork errors, now corrected automatically, may account for much of the drop in hours-of-service violations since the federal electronic logging device mandate became effective, said Collin Mooney, executive director of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently announced that the percentage of hours-of-service (HOS) violations found in commercial vehicle inspections has fallen by about half since ELD’s became mandatory in December. The agency has publicized a chart that will show over time the violation trends.

HOS violations were found in 1.32 to 1.36 percent of driver inspections through the first half of 2017, the agency reported. In April and May this year HOS violations were written in 0.69 and 0.64 percent of inspections. About 300,000 inspections are conducted by state and federal authorities each month.

Much of the reduction probably results from reduced “form and manner” violations—log inaccuracies that consist of missing data for the date, location, unit number and license plate number of the vehicle, Mooney said. These were common issues in paper log book inspections.

These are considered minor violations, he said. “These accounted for a large number of violations. The ELD is now auto-populating all that information electronically so those form-and-manner violations should be non-existent except for the number of drivers who are still running paper logs for various reasons.”

He said the drop in form-and-manner errors “is excellent news. We anticipated this happening and it is tracking as we expected.” But it’s far too early to assess the true safety benefits of the ELD mandate, which is intended to discourage drivers from working excessive hours.

“Because these errors are more about administration than safety, we are going to have a hard time finding correlations with crashes,” Mooney said.

The current statistics do not provide much insight into possible reductions in HOS violations, he added. Detailed accident statistics for this year will not be available until about 18 months after the end of the year.

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is a nonprofit association of local, state, provincial, territorial and federal commercial motor vehicle safety officials and industry representatives.—Rick Stoff

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