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.

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