Fleet Management

DOT Seeks Comment: Do Fed HazMat Regs Preempt California Break Rules?

August 31, 2016

By David Cullen

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Image: Paccar Financial
Image: Paccar Financial

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is inviting public comment on an application from the National Tank Truck Carriers Inc. to determine whether federal hazardous-material regulations preempt or override the state of California’s meal and rest break requirements. PHMSA noted that California law generally prohibits employers from requiring a truck driver to work during any meal or rest period.

In its application, NTTC lists three reasons why it contends federal law should preempt California law: it creates unnecessary delays for the transportation of hazardous materials; it conflicts with the attendance requirements of the Hazardous Materials Regulations; and it creates an obstacle to accomplishing the security objectives of the HMR.

The notice, issued on Aug.30, will be open for comments for up to 45 days after it is published in the Federal Register. The date of publication will be determined by the Federal Register, but PHMSA said a preview of the notice is available on the agency's website. 

Controversy over California’s meat and rest break provisions has been percolating for years, both in the court system and on Capitol Hill.

In 2014, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a California law requiring a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked and a 30-minute meal period every five hours, when a work period is more than five hours, does not violate a 1994 federal law.

A year later, the U.S. Supreme Court denied motions filed by trucking companies seeking to overturn that lower court ruling. In seeking review of the appellate court ruling, one of the petitioners, Penske Logistics, contended that the California law is preempted by a 1994 federal statute that prohibits states from enforcing laws “related to a price, route or service of any motor carrier” transporting property. In the Ninth Circuit’s 3-0 ruling, Judge Susan Graber found that paid break periods are “normal background rules for almost all employers doing business in the state.”

Earlier this year, several efforts to override the California law with a new Federal statute came a cropper. Those proposals aimed to prevent states from enacting their own meal and rest break rules for CDL drivers. They also sought to prohibit states from requiring that those drivers be paid certain types of added compensation, such as detention pay.


  1. 1. Robert Orcutt [ September 01, 2016 @ 06:24AM ]

    1. Federal laws should be first in interstate transportation simply because they are uniform for the job, not the location.
    2. this type of law should ALLOW not REQUIRE rest stops and meals.

  2. 2. Wayne Schooling [ September 01, 2016 @ 10:00AM ]

    Someone should remind California that Federal law ALWAYS supersedes state law. Just because California has the 6th largest economy they act like a rebellious pot smoking teenager who needs to be put in its place.
    Maybe The Donald can give California a timeout.

  3. 3. Michael Galorath [ September 01, 2016 @ 02:13PM ]

    Here we may have a driver who moves freight or a Haz mat in and out of the state of California. What laws does he follow? When he crosses the state lines the rules change. As he crossed the state line now he's in violation! Now this same driver has an accident and kills (for the sake of this conservation) a school bus full of kids. The laws in California were a direct and contributing cause of the accident. Those laws don't apply in surrounding states and Mexico. A Haz mat driver needs to be concentrating on his job a hand. No what do I need to do once I cross the state lies. The actual people that are making the laws need to get out from behind the desk and talk to drivers and see how and what they have to deal with before they create another can of worms.


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