California, Teamsters Sue FMCSA To Reinstate Meal And Rest Break Rules For Truckers

Sacramento, California – In an expected move, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and the California Labor Commissioner’s Office announced on Thursday the filing of a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) decision to strike down the state’s more strict meal and rest break rules for truck drivers.

In the announcement A.G. Becerra took issue with FMCSA’s determination that “California’s law is incompatible with Federal regulations and causes a disruption in interstate commerce.” Becerra argued, “It is well within a state’s rights to establish standards for the welfare of our workers. Truck drivers, like every other person protected under California’s labor laws across hundreds of different industries, deserve adequate meal and rest breaks.”

FMCSA’s decision to end California’s preemption of federal regulations concerning rest breaks was issued on December 21, 2018. FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said, “Safety is FMCSA’s top priority and having uniform rules is a key component to increasing safety for our truck drivers.”

 

The California rules had become a source of frustration for many carriers operating in California because it opened them up to more complexity, compliance costs and a series of class action lawsuits.

The decision by FMCSA then came in response to petitions filed by the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association which argued California’s more stringent laws had no additional safety benefit than federal regulations already provided and were unreasonably burdensome to interstate commerce. FMCSA agreed.

“It is well within a state’s rights to establish standards for the welfare of our workers. Truck drivers, like every other person protected under California’s labor laws across hundreds of different industries, deserve adequate meal and rest breaks.” – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

However, A.G. Becerra contends the FMCSA does not have the authority to preempt state standards and is limited to review of laws and regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety. Further, Becerra intends to make the case that the provisions targeted by the ATA and the FMCSA are broadly applicable workplace regulations that are not laws and regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety within the meaning of federal law.

California Labor Secretary Julie A. Su further explained the state’s position by stating, “Under the George W. Bush administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration had determined that these very same worker rights were not preempted by federal law. In this reversal, the federal government would have drivers work up to 12 hours a day without breaks. We refuse to sit back and allow workers to be treated that way in California.”

 

Teamsters Also File Suit Asking Court For A Reversal

California’s filing comes on the heels of the International Brotherhood Of Teamsters Union also filing a suit on Wednesday, February 6, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the DOT and FMCSA’s decision. That lawsuit is asking the court to reverse the decision “due to the adverse impact it would have on thousands of workers and highway safety in California,” the Teamsters said in a release.

“We are standing united in opposition to this decision. Highway safety for Teamster members and the public must never be put at risk just so that transportation corporations can eke out a little more profit,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President.

Expect a lengthy legal battle that will most likely find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow the story.

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