By Powell Slaughter
While I believe reasonable regulations can help protect the water we drink, the air we breathe and the safety of people at work and on the road, when they’re ill-defined or not thought through for potential damaging results, some rules just make life more complicated.
The more I talk to people and read about it, the mandate for electronic logging devices on trucking tractors and buses strikes me as an example of the latter. Before you say I’m against highway safety, bear with me.
With slight fluctuations, fatalities from heavy truck and bus crashes have trended downward. In 2000, there were 776 fatalities involving such vehicles, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. In 2015, they stood at 715.
That doesn’t sound like a big drop — and indeed, the statistics make no difference to the families of the deceased — but that’s not the whole story.
In 2000, there were 8.7 million large trucks and buses on our roads, and that number stood at 12.1 million in 2015, an increase of 37.9 percent. Looking at fatalities per million vehicle miles traveled — again, all these numbers are from FMCSA — the number fell from 0.205 to 0.14, a decline of 31.7 percent.
For comparison’s sake, let’s look at fatalities from drunk driving, which also have shown steady, but lesser, declines than those related to heavy truck crashes. In 2015, FMCSA reported 10,265 drunk-driving fatalities, with fatalities per vehicle mile traveled at 0.33.
Which is the greater threat to safety on our roads and highways? I know my answer.
It’s apparent from the limitations on service attributed to strict enforcement of driving hours through ELDs that manual logs have been subject to some “creativity” on drivers’ part. One carrier whom I won’t name said his drivers called those manual logs “the comic book.”
That said, I’ll take my chances with a professional driver whose livelihood is largely tied to avoiding crashes and who feels he or she has enough time in the day to safely complete a job even if it means driving an extra hour versus one who’s feeling the heat to get somewhere as fast as humanly possible.
Using the mandate’s logic for ELDs as it relates to highway safety, I’m wondering why each and every car and truck on the road is not required to have an interlock device installed in order to prevent intoxicated drivers from starting their vehicles.
I am happy to see that efforts are underway in the trucking sector to amend ELD regulations to accommodate more flexibility in factors such as break times, but I remain of the opinion that the technology is an attempt to fix a problem that wasn’t as great as the general public and legislators might have thought.
While that tractor-trailer on the highway might look intimidating, it’s the Richard Petty wannabes and the possibly intoxicated folks behind the wheel of a four-wheeler that scare me the most.
I can safely assume most people driving those big rigs have passed a drug test and that they recognize getting into a crash might mean their job, and maybe even their life.
Powell Slaughter is senior editor at Furniture Today.