DOT pre-empts California rule on meal and rest breaks

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 437 views 

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has granted trade organization American Trucking Associations’ request to pre-empt meal-and-rest break rules in California after the organization sought federal legislation to overrule the state mandate.

“This is a victory for highway safety, not trial lawyers,” said Chris Spear, president and CEO of American Trucking Associations (ATA). “The trucking industry supports our nation’s economic growth by safely and efficiently moving goods across state lines, and this decision by the Department of Transportation (DOT) will save jobs, unburden businesses throughout the supply chain and keep the prices Americans pay for food, clothing and countless other essential items affordable and accessible.”

In late September, ATA petitioned DOT to pre-empt the rules on grounds that that patchwork of rules related to driver hours of service negatively impacts safety, are inconsistent with federal rules and creates a hardship for interstate commerce. While the rules were imposed by California, they had been enforced as a result of lawsuits against carriers.

“We were forced to ask DOT and the Secretary for this important, common sense solution because congressional dysfunction and gridlock prevented Congress from reasserting itself — as it had in 1994 — as the primary arbiter of interstate commerce, despite bipartisan, bicameral support,” Spear said. “We hope today’s ruling will once and for all underscore the importance of a single, national standard for work and safety rules for professional drivers.”

ATA previously sought to pre-empt the meal-and-rest break rules in California through a federal amendment and a federal funding bill, but the rule changes were removed before being approved. The changes would’ve allowed a 1994 federal law to pre-empt the state law on when truck drivers are required to take meal and rest breaks. California had required drivers to take a break after five hours of work, but since the DOT preempted the state rules, the state must follow the federal hours of service rule, which allows drivers to work for up to eight hours before having to take a break.