Truck-involved fatalities up during first year of ELD mandate

June 18, 2019

Tyson Fisher


Traffic fatalities were down overall for the second consecutive year in 2018 and the seventh consecutive quarter, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s early estimates. However, truck-involved fatalities went up during the first full year of the electronic logging mandate.

According to preliminary numbers from NHTSA, an estimated 36,750 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year, a 1% decrease from the previous year. This is despite a 12.2 billion-mile increase in vehicle miles traveled.

Final numbers for driver, passenger and motorcyclist deaths are projected to decrease slightly for 2018. However, fatalities involving at least one large truck are expected to increase by 3%. Pedestrian fatalities are also expected to go up 4% and pedal-cyclist deaths up by 10%.

The ELD mandate went into effect on Dec. 18, 2017, in an attempt from regulators to increase truck safety. However, preliminary numbers suggest that ELDs did not have the intended effect.

There is a two-year compliance phase that ends this year that allows truckers to use AOBRDs installed and in-use before the December 2017. After this December, all truckers must use self-certified ELDs.

Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, there were 1.14 fatalities in 2018, down from 1.16 fatalities in 2017.

Six of 10 regions experienced declines in traffic fatalities last year. Region 5, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, had the largest decrease at 5%. At 4%, Region 4 had the largest increase, which includes Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The fourth quarter of 2018 marked the seventh consecutive quarterly decrease when compared to the same quarter in the previous year. Historically, fatality numbers ebb and flow per quarter when compared to the previous year. The current decrease streak is a break from a 10-quarter streak of increases from 2014 to 2017, the only major streak of increases since records began in 1975. Significant decreases were seen in the early 1980s, early 1990s and from 2006 to 2010.

In the past decade, traffic fatalities have decreased by nearly 2%. In 2008 and 2009, fatalities decreased by more than 9% each year. However, fatalities jumped by 8.4% in 2015 and 6.5% in 2016. With 37,806 deaths, 2016 was the worst year for traffic fatalities in the past 10 years. In the same periods, traffic deaths reached a low of 32,479 in 2011 after four consecutive annual decreases.

NHTSA’s preliminary numbers for 2018 also estimate an increase in fatalities involving drivers 65 and older.

The most recent stats are only estimates as the data is still incomplete. Numbers are likely to change as more data is collected. According to NHTSA, it is too soon to speculate on the contributing factors or potential implications of any changes in deaths on our roadways.

Final data for 2017 and the annual file for 2018 is expected to be related this fall.