The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration sided with trucking firms in preempting California’s Meal and Rest Break rules for truck drivers.
The decision, announced Friday, keeps a 50-state rule that calls for a 30-minute rest break after eight hours of driving. It stops states from telling drivers when they have to park for rest breaks.
California requires non-exempt workers to take a 30-minute break if they work five hours or longer. The California Labor Commissioner’s Office is reviewing its options, a spokeswoman said Monday, declining further comment.
“We hope (the) ruling will underscore the importance of a single, national standard,” said Chris Spear, chief executive of the American Trucking Associations.
The FMCSA oversees safety for heavy-duty trucks. It said California’s rule was tougher than the federal rule, had no safety benefit and was a burden on interstate commerce.
“Uniform rules increase safety for truck drivers,” FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez said in a statement.
The ATA, the Specialized Carrier & Rigging Association and other trucking interests petitioned the agency for the change. California has 20 days from Dec. 21 to appeal the exemption.
The state’s rule still applies to thousands of trucking companies that operate within California borders, Joe Rajkovacz, director of governmental affairs at the Western States Trucking Association, told Trucks. com. He said his association would seek a separate exemption for those companies.
The California rule prompted hundreds of legal settlements with large motor carriers who failed to pay drivers for meal breaks, Rajkovacz said.
“The lawyers were planting drivers in the companies for 30 days. Then they would quit, and the lawsuits would come,” he said.
The ATA tried for four years to get the exemption through Congress.
In late September, the ATA petitioned FMCSA. It followed a safety rationale the agency accepted in 2015 in exempting the Specialized Carrier & Rigging Association from the federal rest break rule.
California’s meal and rest break rule requires a break after five hours of work. That created a safety issue because drivers had too few safe places to park their trucks. They often pulled over on the side of highway offramps.
The FMCSA wrote in 2015 that “trucks parked at roadside, especially at night, are too often mistaken for moving vehicles and struck, frequently with fatal consequences.”
A lack of safe parking was the No. 2 issue listed by drivers responding to the 2018 “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry” survey by the American Transportation Research Institute. Parking ranked fifth overall.
The FMCSA reviewed more than 700 comments on the ATA petition.