FMCSA Puts An End To California Meal And Rest Break Rules For Truck Drivers
Washington, D.C. – Many trucking industry stakeholders received a gift just in time for Christmas as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) struck down California’s more stringent meal and rest break (MRB) requirement for commercial drivers on Friday.
In an announcement posted to its website, FMCSA said,
“California’s law is incompatible with Federal regulations and causes a disruption in interstate commerce. In addition, the confusing and conflicting requirements are overly burdensome for drivers and reduce productivity, increasing costs for consumers. Additionally, safety issues have likely resulted from the lack of adequate parking solutions for trucks in the State.”
FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez Explains Decision
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.” Martinez says the recent public comment period, in which more than 700 comments were submitted, helped the administration come to this determination. “”During the public comment period, FMCSA heard directly from drivers, small business owners, and industry stakeholders that California’s meal and rest rules not only pose a safety risk, but also lead to a loss in productivity and ultimately hurt American consumers,” Martinez stated.
California’s regulations that truck drivers must stop for a 30-minute break after 5 hours is more strict than the federal hours-of-service regulations requiring truck drivers to take a 30-minute break after 8 hours. The California rules have been a source of frustration for many carriers operating in California because it has opened them up to more complexity, compliance costs and a series of class action lawsuits.
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association both submitted petitions arguing California can’t preempt federal regulations that govern federal hours-of-service regulations. ATA filed its petition on September 24 and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association filed its on October 29.
ATA’s petition argued:
“Federal law provides for preemption of state laws on CMV safety that are additional to or more stringent than federal regulations if they (1) have no safety benefit; (2) are incompatible with federal regulations; or (3) would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce,” FMCSA wrote in its justification for rejecting California’s laws. “The FMCSA has determined that the MRB Rules are laws on CMV safety, that they are more stringent than the Agency’s hours of service regulations, that they have no safety benefits that extend beyond those already provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, that they are incompatible with the Federal hours of service regulations, and that they cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce. The California MRB Rules, therefore, are preempted under 49 U.S.C. 31141(c).”
Industry Reaction So Far
The timing of the announcement by the FMCSA late on a Friday afternoon before an extended Christmas holiday break is both curious and makes it difficult to get a thorough cross-section of views. However, here are some of the views from industry groups and leaders thus far.
ATA President, Chris Spear, was quick to weigh in on FMCSA’s granting of ATA’s petition saying,
“We were forced to ask DOT and the Secretary for this important, common-sense solution because congressional dysfunction and gridlock prevented Congress from reasserting itself – as it had in 1994 – as the primary arbiter of interstate commerce, despite bipartisan, bicameral support. We hope today’s ruling will once and for all underscore the importance of a single, national standard for work and safety rules for professional drivers.”
The Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) was also quick to react to the ruling with a statement on its website that reads in-part:
“We applaud FMCSA for recognizing the valid concerns of our industry. TCA has been fighting for years on behalf of our members against California’s onerous meal and rest break laws. Ultimately, this action by FMCSA is an important step toward creating a more reliable and consistent regulatory environment for professional truck drivers. A consistent set of rules directly benefits drivers, consumers, small businesses, and the American economy.”
Critics of the agency’s decision have also weighed in and provided comments to Transportation Nation Network (TNN).
Andrea Marks, Communications Director of Trucker Nation, said they were “shocked to see the announcement from FMCSA,” and exclusively tells TNN:
“We fear the agency bought into the tactics of the ATA just as it appeared they intended to do. We recognize that the California meal and rest break issue is rooted in the state labor law and isn’t localized as a trucking industry issue. We don’t feel it is the agency’s place to make such decisions on state law that impacts all piece meal workers. This may open the door for other states to follow suit and it drastically change the way organizations choose to pay drivers.”
TNN will continue to bring you more reaction from across the industry so stay logged on to TransportationNation.com.