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FMCSA says California truck driver meal and rest break rules preempted by federal law

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has granted petitions to preempt California’s meal and rest break rules, which differ from current federal hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers. The petitions were submitted by the American Trucking Associations and the Specialized Carriers and Rigging Association, according to a notice published in the Federal Register December 28.

California rules preempted. The associations sought a determination that California’s Meal and Rest Break rules (MRB Rules) are preempted under 49 U.S.C. 31141 (Review and preemption of State laws and regulations) as applied to property-carrying commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers covered by the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations.

Under federal law, state laws on CMV safety that are additional to or more stringent than federal regulations may be preempted if they have no safety benefit, are incompatible with federal regulations, or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

The FMCSA has determined that California’s MRB Rules:

  • Are laws on CMV safety,
  • Are more stringent than the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations,
  • Have no safety benefits beyond those already provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations,
  • Are incompatible with the federal hours-of-service regulations, and
  • Cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

The FMCSA thus found that California’s MRB Rules are preempted under 49 U.S.C. 31141(c).

Widespread concern. The FMCSA said that it granted the petitions is in response to “widespread concern from drivers, concerned citizens, and industry stakeholders.” In 1996, Congress preempted states from enacting or enforcing policies “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier,” the federal agency noted, adding that California’s law is incompatible with federal regulations and it “causes a disruption in interstate commerce.”

California’s “confusing and conflicting requirements are overly burdensome for drivers and reduce productivity, increasing costs for consumers,” according to the FMCSA. Safety issues have also likely resulted from the lack of adequate parking solutions for trucks in California, the agency added.

“Safety is FMCSA’s top priority and having uniform rules is a key component to increasing safety for our truck drivers,” said FMCSA Administrator Raymond P. Martinez. “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.”