At a recent truck safety summit, three safety experts talked about ‘what’s working’ to move the safety needle at their companies. All three experts talked about the effectiveness of automatic emergency braking technology (AEB) and shared compelling real-world data demonstrating its efficacy. This got us at STC wondering how the crash reduction benefits of  AEB, and other active safety technologies in the market today, compare to the estimated benefits of mandated ELDs. AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimated the annual benefit of four technologies if they were installed on all current and new trucks. STC has listed them below and compared them with the FMCSA ELD benefit estimate.

Technology Crashes Avoided Injuries Avoided Deaths Avoided Source
Video-based onboard safety systems 63,000 17,733 293 AAA Foundation*
Lane departure warning systems 6,372 1,342 115 AAA Foundation*
Automatic emergency braking systems 5,294 2,753 55 AAA Foundation*
Air disc brakes 2,411 1,447 37 AAA Foundation*
Electronic logging devices (ELDs) 1,844 562 26 FMCSA**

The technologies are listed in order of the highest to the lowest estimated crash reduction benefits. While the estimates for the top four were made by AAA, and the ELD estimates were made by FMCSA, there’s no reason to believe these estimates are not reasonable. All of these technologies have been around for years and are proven effective. However, the estimates do raise some interesting questions:

  • Why did the government (Congress & FMCSA) mandate ELDs instead of one of the other technologies?
  • Did the government compare the potential benefits of different truck safety technologies prior to the ELD mandate?
  • Why did the vast majority of the trucking industry support an ELD mandate over a mandate of video systems, AEB, or others?

Let’s face it. ELDs have improved hours of service compliance. That’s a very good thing. But what about safety? The jury is still out (perhaps way out…) on whether ELDs have reduced crashes. Would the industry and the public have been better served with a different, potentially more safety-beneficial technology mandate?  Hmmmm…

* AAA Foundation Study.  

** FMCSA ELD Estimates