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Democratic lawmakers urge Chao to reject ATA meal break petition

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WASHINGTON — Nineteen Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate have “strongly” urged Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to deny a petition submitted by the American Trucking Associations requesting a determination that the State of California’s meal and rest break rules are pre-empted by federal law.

“Our objection to an administrative determination of preemption is unequivocal,” the lawmakers stated in a letter to Chao dated October 31. “After more than four years of debate on this issue in Congress, we have had the opportunity to consider at length the impacts of pre-emption of California’s meal and rest break law on truck drivers, to review Congressional intent in enacting the motor carrier pre-emption statute, and to evaluate thoroughly the complex operational realities of goods movement. We have also proposed narrowly tailored statutory changes in an attempt to promote uniformity of Hours of Service rules for drivers that operate across multiple states. These reasonable proposals have been roundly and repeatedly rejected by the ATA. We strongly maintain that any change to pre-emption in this area requires a change in statute and must be left to Congress.”

The lawmakers said they were extremely concerned that the Trump administration had already demonstrated a results-oriented bias against state meal and rest break protections, noting that on September 20, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had determined that California meal and rest break laws were pre-empted with respect to drivers of motor vehicles transporting hazardous materials and certain classes of explosive materials, as well as drivers employed by motor carriers required to file a security plan.

“To justify pre-emption, the agency cites purported ‘unnecessary delay’ in the transportation of hazardous materials created by California’s labor law,” the lawmakers wrote. “The state’s law does not cause unnecessary delay, because drivers can agree to waive meal or rest breaks, provided they are compensated for the time worked. If an employer denies a driver an opportunity for a break, then the employer must pay the driver an additional hour of wages. By granting pre-emption, this administration has demonstrated its willingness to negate a state’s authority to regulate wages and working conditions in order to sustain carrier productivity and profit.”

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. Other states followed California’s lead, enacting their own break rules. Nearly 20 states have their own separate meal and rest break laws.

The trucking industry has for some time tried to get legislation passed that would pre-empt state trucking regulations.

The most recent Congressional rebuff came late last month when an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2018 that would have clarified Congress’ intent to have federal regulatory authority over interstate commerce, was removed as the House and Senate conference committee met to resolve differences between the two bills as passed by those respective chambers.

The amendment would have stopped the erosion of federal authority by states who impose meal and rest breaks that run contrary to national uniformity.

The amendment had been approved in the House on a vote of 222-193 last April but was not part of the FAA Senate bill.

Within hours of learning that the amendment had been quashed, the American Trucking Associations submitted a petition to the FMCSA requesting a determination under federal law whether California’s meal and rest break rules are pre-empted by federal law.

The specific federal law cited by ATA says a state may not enforce a state law or regulation on commercial motor vehicle safety that the Secretary of Transportation decides may not be enforced.

The letter was led by Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Patty Murray of Washington, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The letter was signed by Robert “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit; as well as Reps. Grace Napolitano, Jared Huffman, Julia Brownley, Alan Lowenthal, Mark DeSaulnier and Mark Takano, all from California.

Senators who signed the letter include Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein, both of California; Claire McCaskill, Missouri; Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut; Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, both of Massachusetts; Cory Booker, New Jersey; Margaret Wood Hassan, New Hampshire; and Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania.

The letter and a four-page attachment strongly refuting the call for a determination of pre-emption can be found here.

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Leroy Minter

    November 10, 2018 at 7:14 am

    I believe 30 minute break should be eliminated, Drivers knows” when to take a break, this does nothing to help the industry.

  2. Jimmy

    November 11, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Notice all the people pushing this are democrats, nuts. With the majority being from the land of the fruits and nuts, California. The people supporting this havent a clue. What I don’t understand is how these idiots keep getting elected into office. None of them have an ounce of common sense.
    I do not trust the ATA no further than I can throw them, but this 30 minute meal break is a joke and does nothing to promote safety. Heck it’s hard enough now to find a place to park. Let alone all these lazy drivers parking on the fuel islands taking a 30 minute break. Meanwhile I’m sitting behind these morons needing fuel.

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The Nation

Runaway ‘bobtail’ tractor crashes into Atlanta motel

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Police said this “bob-tail” tractor left the road, hit a parked car and ran into the side of a motel. (Atlanta Channel 2 Action News photo)

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Thursday that a driver is in custody after crashing a tractor-trailer into a motel in northwest Atlanta and running from the scene, officials said.

Atlanta Fire Rescue spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford told AJC.com that the truck went “partially” into the side of the Airway Motel in the 700 block of Fulton Industrial Boulevard on Thursday morning. There were no reports of injuries.

The “bobtail” tractor-trailer left the road, hit a parked limousine and went into the one-story building about 9:15 a.m., Atlanta police Officer Jarius Daugherty said.

The driver ran but was captured nearby, police said. His identity and the charges against him have not been released.

A woman was inside the motel room where the truck hit, but she was able to escape by climbing out of a back window, Channel 2 Action News reported.

“I just started crying and screaming,” the woman, Lashonda Allen, told the news station. “I was just praying to God the semi-truck didn’t catch on fire.”

Crews are checking the structural integrity of the building and investigating what sparked the crash.

By noon, the truck had been removed, and a gaping hole remained in the brick building.

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Oops! New York state did not previously enforce ELD rule, now making up for lost time

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The ELD mandate was a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. The Trucker file photo.

ALBANY, N.Y. — There’s always a straggler in the bunch. Unknown to many, New York state has not previously been enforcing the federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate because it never adopted the ELD rule under its state laws and thus lacked the authority to enforce it.

According to the Trucking Association of New York (TANY), the New York State DOT has now issued an emergency rulemaking and begun enforcement of the ELD mandate.

TANY added in a news release that they have been told carriers not in compliance with the ELD mandate will be placed out-of-service as early as Thursday, January 17.

The ELD rule issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration went into effect in December 2017 and state governments were to have followed suit by incorporating the federal ELD rule into their state laws.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) has pursued lawsuits with certain states that have enforced the mandate while lacking a state-level law.

The ELD mandate has been unpopular among some truckers, who say it harms their schedules, take-home pay, and safety. Other truckers have said they like electronic logging once they get used to it.

When OOIDA sued New York, their complaint was dismissed — not because the New York court agreed with the state’s actions to enforce the federal law, but because New York wasn’t enforcing the law in the first place, according to Business Insider.

The snafu came to light in a State of New York Supreme Court ruling and opinion issued on December 31 by Judge Richard M. Platkin.

“Drivers are not being stopped, cited, or placed out-of-service pursuant to the ELD rule,” Platkin wrote.

Marc Berger, the chief motor-carrier investigator for New York’s Department of Transportation, said in the December 31 ruling that there are “no notices of violation or uniform traffic tickets being issued citing ELD provisions.”

The other defendants in the case — New York’s state police and the Department of Motor Vehicles — also stated that the ELD law hasn’t been enforced.

The ELD mandate electronically enforces the Hours of Service (HOS) law, which has been in effect since the federal government began regulating trucking in the 1930s. The HOS law stipulates that truckers can drive no more than 11 hours in a 14-hour period, a provision that some truckers say doesn’t reflect the nature of their work.

New York state said in the ruling that it does in fact enforce the HOS, but that the law is more challenging to enforce if ELDs are used.

The ELD mandate came into effect by means of a 2012 law passed under former President Barack Obama. The provision was championed as a way to protect the safety of truckers and others on the road. FMCSA estimated in 2014 that ELDs could prevent up to 1,714 crashes, 522 injuries, and 24 deaths each year.

But some truckers maintain ELDs are doing the opposite, while truck lobbying groups say it’s really not ELDs drivers have a problem with, it’s the unbendable nature of the HOS, which need more flexibility.

“The electronic logs are supposed to make it safer, but really it has created a hazardous race to beat the clock,” career truck driver Steve Manley, 51, told Business Insider. “Drivers are now more reckless than ever trying to make it to their destination before the clock runs out with the mandatory breaks and such.”

A TANY news release said despite New York State not enforcing the ELD mandate, it did enforce HOS and that FMCSA roadside inspections and on-site audits enforced the ELD mandate.

“Due to this, TANY continued to advise members to be in compliance with the ELD mandate regardless of the situation with New York enforcement,” the association said.

 

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The Nation

Speeding tractor-trailer flattens Utah restaurant, 3 injured

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This image from Salt Lake City television station FOX News 13 shows the aftermath of a speeding big rig slamming into a restaurant. (Courtesy: FOX News 13)

WELLINGTON, Utah — A speeding tractor-trailer skidded off a snow-slicked road Wednesday and crashed into a restaurant in a small Utah town, flattening the establishment and injuring 3 people, authorities said.

The truck was traveling too fast for conditions at about 6:30 a.m. when it went off a state highway that runs through the town of Wellington and struck the Los Jilbertos restaurant, which was open, the Utah Highway Patrol said in a statement.

State troopers rescued the restaurant owner’s wife, who was trapped in in the wreckage and suffered what were described as minor injuries. Also taken to a hospital for treatment of minor injuries were the restaurant owner and the truck driver, said Highway Patrol Sgt. Nicholas Street.

No customers were inside the restaurant when the truck hit it.

Images of the wreck showed the restaurant’s snow-covered roof torn off and leaning on top of the collapsed restaurant, the semi-trailer’s cab lodged into a corner of the building and the trailer jack-knifed. The restaurant is just off the highway, State Route 6.

The crash knocked out electrical and gas service to part of Wellington, a community of about 1,600 residents about two hours southeast of Salt Lake City. The power outage closed the town’s elementary school.

 

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