The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rejected a petition to exempt commercial vehicle drivers subject to federal hours of service regulation from the California laws and regulations requiring employers to provide employees with meal and rest breaks.

The agency ruled that petition does not satisfy the threshold requirement for preemption under 49 U.S.C. 31141(c) because the provisions at issue are not "laws and regulations on commercial
motor vehicle safety," but rather laws and regulations applied generally to California employers.

On July 3, 2008, James H. Hanson, Esq., Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary, P.C., petitioned the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration on behalf of a group of motor carriers to preempt the California statutes and rules requiring transportation industry employers to give their employees meal and rest breaks during the work day, as applied to drivers of commercial motor vehicles subject to the FMCSA hours-of-service regulations.

The petitioners argued that "motor carrier operations are carefully timed to take advantage
of the flexibility available under the HOS Regulations and, in some instances, to take advantage of the full complement of driving hours provided as well. Some carriers schedule driver meals to take place at carrier facilities once the driver has delivered a load so that unloading, sorting, and loading of outbound shipments can take place during the break. The Meal and Rest Break Rules, by mandating when meals breaks must be taken, interfere with such arrangements, meaning that the driver will miss the inbound appointment, which in turn has the domino effect of delaying outbound operations."

In addition, they noted that because drivers must find a place to pull over, park and shut down their equipment before the break can start, "as a practical matter, the Meal and Rest Break Rules impose a much greater burden on the driver than a simple reading of the rules ... would at first suggest, and the burden is exacerbated in congested areas."

You can read the full notice in the Federal Register here.