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ATA petitions FMCSA to determine California meal and rest break rules invalid under federal law

  (Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

The American Trucking Association has filed a petition with Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, requesting the government agency determine California’s state-specific meal and rest break rules are preempted by federal law.

FreightWaves Staff Writer Mike Angell reported earlier this week that the issue is coming to a head as the U.S. Senate decides on renewing the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act. The Senate version of the act does not include the Denham Amendment found in the version of the reauthorization bill passed by the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Under California law, drivers making their way through the Golden State are entitled to a 30-minute meal break for every five hours worked, in addition to 10-minute rest breaks every four hours.

“These unnecessary and duplicative laws are not grounded in safety, nor being enforced by the states. Rather, they are being used to fuel spurious litigation designed to extort the trucking industry, impairing the safe and efficient movement of interstate goods,” ATA officials said in a previous media release.

The House-passed Denham-Cuellar-Costa amendment would have restricted individual states’ ability to create laws regarding meal and rest breaks for USDOT-regulated truck drivers, instead reinforcing the federal government’s authority over interstate operations.

Existing federal law prohibits individual states from enforcing commercial motor vehicle safety laws or regulations that the secretary of transportation has determined to be preempted. According to the FMCSA, to determine whether a law or regulation is preempted, the following points must be considered: (1) the law has the same effect as a regulation prescribed under 49 U.S.C. § 31136, which is the authority for much of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations; (2) is less stringent than such a regulation; or (3) is additional to or more stringent than such a regulation.

If it is determined that the law has the safe effect as the existing federal law, it may be enforced. If it is determined to be less stringent that the existing federal law, it may not be enforced.

In the case that the state law is found to be more stringent than the existing federal law, the state law may be enforced unless it is found that the law has no safety benefit, is incompatible with existing federal law or would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce, according to the FMCSA.

“In deciding whether a State law or regulation will cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce, the secretary may consider the cumulative effect on implementation of the state law or regulation and all similar laws and regulations of other states,” a notice provided by the FMCSA reads.

The FMCSA is seeking comments on the petition through October 29. The agency is particularly interested in comments addressing what, if any, impact California’s meal and rest break requirements may have on interstate commerce.


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Ashley Coker, Staff Writer

Ashley is interested in the opportunities and issues that arise at the intersection of law and technology. She is the primary contributor to the truckloadindexes.com news site content. She studied journalism at Middle Tennessee State University and worked as an editor and reporter at two daily newspapers before joining FreightWaves. Ashley spends her free time at the dog park with her beagle, Ruth, or scouring the internet for last minute flight deals.
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