Trucking’s Hail Mary Pass to make federal hours-of-service laws fully the law of the land, both theoretically and practically, has been successfully completed.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Dec. 21 that it is granting petitions to preempt the State of California’s meal and rest break rules for truck drivers, which differ from current federal hours-of-service regulations.
FMCSA stated that the action, approved by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, comes “in response to widespread concern from drivers, concerned citizens, and industry stakeholders. In 1996, the agency noted, Congress preempted states from enacting or enforcing policies “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier.”
DOT has determined that 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 [of California].”
The American Trucking Associations applauded the decision as “a common sense safety ruling” that “asserts the federal government’s critical role in regulating interstate commerce.” In late September, ATA had petitioned Secretary Chao to preempt meal-and-rest break rules imposed by California 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.”
ATA had taken the unusual action of seeking DOT’s intervention after its lobbying efforts fell short several times in recent years to move a bill through Congress that would have resolved this issue legislatively.
FMCSA said in a statement that the determination to preempt the rules was made after over 700 public comments had been submitted to the Federal Register docket for the petitions
“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.”