Hours of service changes might be coming soon. The industry will be safer if they pass.

Late Thursday evening Texas Rep. (R) Brian Babin introduced a bill in the House that will change the hours of service regulations for American truckers. The bill is intended to modifiy the 14 hour rule and would allow drivers to enjoy a three-hour break without the time counting against the driver’s available hours.

The act, called “The Responsible and Effective Standards for Truckers (REST) Act” would require the Department of Transportation to update Hours of Service regulations to allow a rest break once per 14-hour duty period for up to 3 consecutive hours as long as the driver is off-duty, effectively pausing the 14-hour clock.  However, drivers would still need to log ten consecutive hours off duty before the start of their next work shift.  It would also eliminate the existing 30-minute rest break requirement.

While Rep. Babin has become a polarizing name in trucking circles with his fight over the ELD mandate, changing the hours of service rules would allow drivers to judge their own bodies and current conditions. It would also be an enormous victory for truckers. We also argue that it will make the industry safer.

FreightWaves’ own Chief Analytics Officer, Dean Croke (who ran data science at the largest ELD provider in North America) argued that the 14 hour rule should be scrapped all together. In his article, Why the 14-hour clock rule is the most dangerous of them all, Croke states that “the idea that by regulating hours worked we somehow magically ensure drivers are well-rested for the next shift is completely flawed.”

He describes that drivers need to have flexibility built into their available hours. Current regulations force drivers to compromise sleep schedules to maximize their earnings.

Drivers are paid on a per mile basis, but their capacity to earn is limited by how many hours they are able to drive. The more time drivers are delayed at docks, the less time they have to drive and earn. When shippers create delays, drivers end up pushing harder to make up for lost time.

Also (and perhaps less appreciated) is the impact of disrupted sleep caused by inconsistencies in the shipper community around loading/unloading schedules.

The politics of this debate will play out over coming months and there will be a lot of arguments here. As an organization that believes the answer lies in data and not in political expediency, we are of the opinion that the REST Act is one where data is on Babin’s side. We get millions of ELD data points daily, which we use to answer all sorts of questions around economics, capacity, pricing, driver behavior and safety. Based on our analysis, the drivers that experience the most volatile dock loading and unloading schedules are also the most prone to incidents or accidents.

Clearly, the irregular pattern at which shippers operate has an enormous impact on driver sleep schedule. Anyone that has traveled on a multi-city business trip with flight delays can relate to how exhausting this is.

In an ironic twist, ELDs that Rep. Babin fought so passionately against will end up proving that his proposed REST bill will make the industry safer. Overhauling the HOS rules and allowing for the driver to take a break without penalty will end up encouraging drivers that need a nap the opportunity to do so.

While ELD data can not prove Rep. Babin’s view that the ELD mandate is the “Dodd-Frank law of the trucking industry,” it can prove that driver fatigue without the opportunity for a break is a recipe for disaster.

As with any regulation change, carriers would want to ensure that this time is not given up to shippers for their own benefit. ELDs, combined with blockchain has the potential to prevent this from happening. ELDs record dock times and with blockchain carriers can find out what average wait times and schedule are at a given stop, prior to accepting a load. They can also hold shippers accountable for having inconsistencies either in the form of detention or refusing to accept their loads to begin with.