An amendment that would put a stop to any future tries by states to pre-empt federal Hours of Service rules concerning wages and meal breaks took a first step toward enactment recently.
The amendment, part of the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization bill, has made it out of committee and now advances to the full Senate, said David Heller, vice president of government affairs at the Truckload Carriers Association. He said a House version of the authorization bill doesn’t contain the amendment.
“It’s a step in the right direction to stop [state] deviations” to federal HOS, said Heller.
The Senate committee amendment, put forward by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., contains the same language as a 2015 amendment by Rep. Jeff Denham and attached to the FAST Act highway bill. The amendment was stripped out of the bill, however, before the FAST Act finally came to fruition.
Unfortunately, said Heller, Fischer’s amendment only covers future legislation and isn’t retroactive to legislation already approved in such states as California, where the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a circuit court’s ruling, thereby allowing the Golden State’s meal and rest break laws to take precedence over federal HOS laws. “Imagine if you’re a hazmat hauler and are exempt from the 30-minute break on federal Hours of Service but you’re supposed be taking a meal break,” he told Truckload Authority magazine recently.
“There’s the confusion. It’s not unheard of for truck drivers to drive [through] three, four, five, six states in a day. Trying to keep track of all those local rules and regulations on top of keeping track of the federal HOS regulations becomes a geographical nightmare and logistical problem at the very least.”
Other states have followed California, prompting trucking lobby groups to attempt to push lawmakers into ending what they see as “patchwork” legislation. Close to 20 states have their own separate meal and rest break laws outside federal HOS rules.
“Obviously, we look to fight another day” on laws already on the books in those states, Heller said.
The authorization bill with the amendment now advances to the full Senate.
Heller said a similar amendment could still be added into the House’s version of the authorization legislation before all is said and done.
The back story is that in 1994, Congress passed a Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (F4A) that includes the following language:
“A state, political subdivision of a state, or political authority of two or more states, may not enact or enforce a law, regulation or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier (other than a carrier affiliated with a direct air carrier covered by section 41713(b)(4) of this title), or any private motor carrier with respect to the transportation of property.”
But California did pass its own law, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s meal and rest break laws are not “related to” prices, routes or services as stated in F4A and therefore California’s law could stand.
The California law requires employers to provide a “duty-free,” 30-minute meal break for employees who work more than five hours a day as well as a second “duty-free,” 30-minute meal break for people who work more than 10 hours a day.