After years of our members being legally extorted by trial lawyers for actual and alleged non-compliance with California meal & rest break (MRB) rules, in 2018, the WSTA was the first organization to petition the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to pre-empt California from enforcing its MRB rule on truck drivers subjected to hours-of-service rules. We were quickly joined by the Specialized Carrier & Rigging Association with a petition and finally by the American Trucking Association.
The effort was partially successful in that FMCSA ultimately pre-empted California from enforcing its MRB rule, but only on drivers subjected to the hours-of-service rule issued by the federal government. After a Teamsters legal challenge in the Ninth Circuit to the pre-emption determination, the federal court upheld FMCSA’s decision.
Late this past summer, in what can only be called a purely political move by the agency, they issued a Federal Register Notice essentially begging for petitions to reverse its previous decision.
As of the publication date of WTN, the State of California issued the following press release giving FMCSA what it asked for. The WSTA will be engaged on this issue once the feds publish this petition (and very likely others) asking whether the petition(s) should be granted.
PRESS RELEASE Attorney General Bonta Defends California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules for Commercial Drivers
Monday, November 13, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000, firstname.lastname@example.org
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, in partnership with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, today announced the filing of a petition seeking a waiver of federal preemption determinations that prevent California from enforcing its meal and rest break requirements for motor vehicle drivers in California. Federal regulations by the Federal MotorCarrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) generally permit commercial drivers to drive eight hours without a break. In contrast, California law generally requires 30-minute meal breaks during each five hours of work, and 10-minute rest breaks for every four-hour period. In 2018 and 2020 under the Trump Administration, FMCSA ruled that California’s rules to protect the safety of drivers and the general public were preempted by the federal rules and were therefore unenforceable. FMCSA recently initiated a petition process for states to request a waiver from this ruling. If FMCSA grants the waiver, California can resume enforcing its meal and rest break rules on behalf of commercial vehicle drivers.
“Meal and rest breaks are essential for the welfare of our workers, but are especially important for commercial drivers,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Fatigued driving is especially deadly in the trucking and bussing industries and contributes to accidents on California’s roadways. California’s meal and rest break rules protect drivers and promote public safety by providing drivers with adequate time to rest before they become overly fatigued. FMCSA’s Trump-era preemption decisions endanger the health and welfare of California’s workers. All workers deserve a work environment that affords them safety and security.”
In the Petition sent to FMCSA, the Attorney General and the Labor Commissioner highlight that enforcement of California’s meal and rest break rules will have a significant positive impact on health and safety of drivers, have not and will not exacerbate the truck parking shortage in California, and have not and will not weaken the national supply chain or otherwise burden interstate commerce.