• ITVI.USA
    15,314.590
    184.430
    1.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.080
    0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,313.750
    188.540
    1.2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.710
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.350
    0.280
    9.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.090
    0.230
    8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.730
    0.070
    4.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.100
    0.150
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.160
    0.120
    5.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.570
    0.220
    6.6%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
  • ITVI.USA
    15,314.590
    184.430
    1.2%
  • OTRI.USA
    24.080
    0.010
    0%
  • OTVI.USA
    15,313.750
    188.540
    1.2%
  • TLT.USA
    2.710
    0.000
    0%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    3.350
    0.280
    9.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    3.090
    0.230
    8%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.730
    0.070
    4.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.100
    0.150
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    2.160
    0.120
    5.9%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.570
    0.220
    6.6%
  • WAIT.USA
    125.000
    -2.000
    -1.6%
Driver issuesGig WorkersNewsTrucking Regulation

FMCSA rules Washington state can no longer enforce meal/rest break laws

Ruling follows similar determination made in 2018 with regard to California, which is under appeal

Federal regulators have determined that the state of Washington’s meal and rest break (MRB) laws are preempted for commercial trucks subject to federal hours of service (HOS) regulations.

In a decision to be published Tuesday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) granted a petition filed last year by the Washington Trucking Associations (WTA) requesting the agency make the determination.

FMCSA concluded that:

  1. Washington’s MRB rules are state laws or regulations “on commercial motor vehicle safety,” to the extent they apply to drivers of property-carrying CMVs subject to FMCSA’s HOS rules.
  2. Washington’s MRB rules are additional to or more stringent than FMCSA’s HOS rules.
  3. Washington’s MRB rules have no safety benefit.
  4. Washington’s MRB rules are incompatible with FMCSA’s HOS rules.
  5. Enforcement of Washington’s MRB rules would cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.

“Accordingly, FMCSA grants WTA’s petition for preemption and determines that Washington’s MRB rules are preempted pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 31141,” the agency stated.

FMCSA received and considered 33 comments on the petition, with 24 commenters supporting preemption and nine opposing.

The National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), a major shipper group and one of the supporters of WTA’s petition, noted that the Washington’s break rules were similar to those of California’s, which FMCSA in December 2018 determined to be pre-empted under federal HOS rules. NITL points out that the two states require a 30-minute break for every five-hour work period and a 10-minute break for every four-hour work period.

Federal HOS rules – made more flexible earlier this year – require a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving time (instead of on-duty time) and allows an on-duty/not driving period to qualify as the required break.

“More significantly, the employer’s obligations with regard to breaks appears to be higher in Washington than in California by putting the onus onto employers to ensure the employee does no work during their breaks rather than having that be the responsibility of the employee,” NITL argued.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which opposed preemption, took issue with WTA’s assertion that Washington’s meal and rest break rules undermine safety “by artificially exacerbating the shortage of safe truck parking” making it more likely that drivers “will have to spend additional time looking for parking when they need rest, or resort to unsafe places to park.”

“In our experience, a much larger threat faced by truck drivers is that they are discouraged from taking rest breaks as allowed under federal law because they fear punishment from their employers if they don’t complete a run on time, or because they are paid by the mile and would rather push their bodies to the limit in order to earn extra pay,” the Teamsters Union asserted.

The union argued that Washington’s rules actually improve safety because they ensure drivers “have alternative legal protections in place helping to guard them against predatory companies who would rather pressure drivers into not taking a break, even when the driver feels it is physically necessary to do so.”

The Teamsters, which is appealing the FMCSA’s decision in the California case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, last week filed a petition with the court seeking a delay in oral arguments until after Joe Biden is sworn into office on Jan. 20.

Related articles:

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher

John Gallagher, Washington Correspondent

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.

14 Comments

  1. If there is someone out there that is willing to actually listen to truck drivers and what needs to be done with the trucking industry, they sure are not listening to us. You hear it everywhere you go, ” Safety this, and safety that..” What is so safe about placing so many restrictions on truck drivers, that either, A) they have to run as fast as they can from point A to point B, because point A would not load a driver on time (heard all the excuses from shippers). Or B) dispatchers, sales, brokers, think we have time machines, or rockets in our asses and we can fly everywhere in the world in minutes, on an e-log. If the government would actually see that when we were on paper, there were less issues in the industry than today. I feel as a driver that has been on the road for 16yrs now and seen change, safety has been more of a factor today than it has ever been. Due to companies seeing our on duty, off duty status, they call a driver complaining that he has 10hrs and 5min sleeper and he should already be on duty and rolling in 5min from then. Or that a driver took 5hrs to go 200mi, due to weather, when they knew that where they sent the driver was straight into the mess. I have heard alot of stories from drivers, true or not, it all falls back on this e-log, and drivers are all being pushed tired or not, then being told they should manage their time better in said traffic, or weather. I feel the government would have just left the trucking industry alone, ( If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) we probably wouldn’t be suing trucking companies, driving like complete dicks, and plugging up every section of road we can find when our clock runs out. But as I said in my opening, if someone would actually listen. But then again whose going to listen to the guys that have been at this for years and seen more time behind the wheel than most non truck drivers seen in their life.
    P.S.
    To all that think I am just for paper logs. I have been on e-logs like most of you and done my job at times with no issues, but feel it has made others more unsafe, which in turn makes me feel unsafe, when they fly by me like I wasn’t even there. (On weathered roads too)

  2. Employers are notorious for forcing employees to work through their break and lunch break without pay. It’s called Employer theft “off the clock work”.

We are glad you’re enjoying the content

Sign up for a free FreightWaves account today for unlimited access to all of our latest content