FMCSA Exempts Truckers From California Meal and Rest Break Rule

December 24, 2018 by Alan Adler, @AlanAdler

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.

Single standard

“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.

Chris Spear, left, American Trucking Associations chief executive, and FMCSA Administrator Ray Martinez both support a national standard for rest breaks. (Photos: Chris Spear, Alan Adler/; Ray Martinez, New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, )

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 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.

Read Next: Truckers Died in Record Numbers on the Job in 2017

3 Responses

  1. Robert Cummins

    I ive been driving professional for 28 yrs. Elec. Logs has caused more stress and forces a driver to drive when they are tired. Not to mention employers push the limits to the maxx. Because they calculate right to the minute of roll time.and trucking doesnt always go as planned

  2. Sam Cleaver

    How is driving for 8 hours a day without taking a break safer than driving for 5 hours and taking a break? This seems like its all about maximizing trucking company profits at the expense of safety and trucker well being. Looks like a huge step backward.

  3. Danny

    People who aren’t professional commercial drivers, who think they know what is safe for drivers are a freaking joke, and should not be allowed to post comments contributing to the popular ignorance that we already deal with each time the FMCSA comes up with a brilliant idea.


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