FMCSA grants ATA petition to preempt California meal, rest break rules

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WASHINGTON – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Friday said it is granting petitions to preempt the State of California’s meal and rest break rules, which differ from current Federal hours-of-service regulations.

FMCSA’s granting of these 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.”  California’s law is incompatible with Federal regulations and causes a disruption in interstate commerce.  In addition, the confusing and conflicting requirements are overly burdensome for drivers and reduce productivity, increasing costs for consumers. Additionally, safety issues have likely resulted from the lack of adequate parking solutions for trucks in the State.

“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.”

The American Trucking Associations, the Truckload Carriers Association and the American Moving and Storage Association all applauded the decision.

. “This is a victory for highway safety, not trial lawyers,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “The trucking industry supports our nation’s economic growth by safely and efficiently moving goods across state lines, and this decision by the Department of Transportation will save jobs, unburden businesses throughout the supply chain and keep the prices Americans pay for food, clothing and countless other essential items affordable and accessible.”

In late September, ATA petitioned DOT to preempt meal-and-rest break rules imposed by California, but primarily enforced via private lawsuits against motor carriers, on the grounds that a patchwork of rules related to driver hours of service harms safety, is in conflict with federal rules and causes “an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.”

“We were forced to ask DOT and the Secretary for this important, common sense solution because congressional dysfunction and gridlock prevented Congress from reasserting itself – as it had in 1994 – as the primary arbiter of interstate commerce, despite bipartisan, bicameral support,” Spear said. “We hope today’s ruling will once and for all underscore the importance of a single, national standard for work and safety rules for professional drivers.”

“For fleets like mine, knowing the rules will be the same for my drivers regardless of what state they’re delivering to is important,” said ATA Chairman Barry Pottle, president and CEO of Pottle’s Transportation. “I’d like to thank Secretary Chao for taking this step to make our highways safer by simplifying the lives and schedules of America’s truck drivers, but also recognize the efforts and persistence of the ATA staff who successfully built bipartisan consensus around solving this issue for carriers across the country.”

“We applaud FMCSA for recognizing the valid concerns of our industry,” TCA said in a prepared statement. “TCA has been fighting for years on behalf of our members against California’s onerous meal and rest break laws. Ultimately, this action by FMCSA is an important step toward creating a more reliable and consistent regulatory environment for truck drivers. A consistent set of rules directly benefits drivers, consumers, small businesses, and the American economy.”

“As a driver, being safe and well-rested is my primary concern,” said Derrick Whittle, a professional driver with Cargo Transporters Inc., “and having a single set of rules to follow whether I’m in California or Colorado makes it easier for me to do my job.”

“We thank the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration for agreeing with us that the California meal and rest break rules were incompatible with federal law, which holds that state regulations that have no safety benefits or cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce are unenforceable,” said American Moving and Storage Association Vice President of Government Affairs Paul Milotte. “These regulations would have made it tougher for moving companies to operate in the state of California while providing little to no safety benefit for consumers. We appreciate the FMCSA upholding the federal statute over this unnecessary and burdensome state law.”

In all, over 700 public comments were submitted to the Federal Register docket regarding the petitions.

 

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