Bulk transportation

FMCSA opens comments on preempting California rest breaks

In the wake of the National Tank Truck Carriers’ successful hazmat preemption petition regarding California’s meal and rest break laws, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) filed a petition with the Secretary of Transportation to preempt California’s meal and rest break laws for all interstate transportation that passes through California.

The Secretary of Transportation assigned the petition to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which on Oct. 5 published the notice opening comments in the Federal register. Interested parties can submit comments by visiting the docket online. FMCSA will accept comments until Oct. 29. FMCSA could have denied the petition without public comment, so ATA’s petition cleared its first hurdle when the agency accepted comment.

The ATA’s path to victory isn’t “clear-cut,” NTTC said, but California’s meal and rest break laws “present unreasonable burdens to carriers’ operations in California and undermine highway safety.” NTTC also supports the interests of the trucking industry as a whole when they do not impinge on the tank truck sector’s operations.

Accordingly, NTTC plans to support ATA’s petition by filing comments highlighting the California law’s deficiencies. Finally, because the petitions asked for preemption because of different laws, California’s meal and rest break law remains preempted for hazmat loads regardless of how FMCSA rules on the ATA petition.

NTTC’s frequently asked questions document answers questions about how to use the preemption from the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

NTTC’s petition was adjudicated by the PHMSA and decided under the preemption standard in the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act. That standard is strict—no state may apply any rule affecting hazardous materials transportation that is materially different from the Hazardous Materials Regulations in any way. Because ATA’s petition covers both hazmat and general freight loads, they must apply under a different preemption standard. ATA’s petition succeeds only if it can demonstrate California’s meal & rest break laws:

  • Have no safety benefit;
  • Are incompatible with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (a driver cannot follow both); or
  • Cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce (a driver can follow both, but doing so will be difficult and inefficient).
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