The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) on September 20 granted the National Tank Truck Carriers’ petition preempting California’s meal and rest break laws as applied to hazardous material loads.
PHMSA found that California’s meal and rest break laws regulate hazmat transportation and are inconsistent with Hazardous Materials Regulations. As a result, the California provisions are expressly preempted by federal law. Carriers and drivers no longer must choose between following the HMRs to avoid the threat of hazmat releases in densely populated environments or complying with California’s meal and rest break requirements.
“Our carriers are very pleased that the professionals at PHMSA share our commitment to safety, particularly when it comes to transporting hazardous materials,” said NTTC Chairman John Whittington, vice president of government relations at Grammer Industries.
“We thank the organizations that stood with us, like NTTC member Cox Petroleum, the American Trucking Associations, the California Trucking Association, the American Pyrotechnics Association, the National Association of Chemical Distributors, the Western States Trucking Association, and the California Independent Oil Marketers Association.”
Prasad Sharma, a partner at Scopelitis, Garvin, Light, Hanson & Feary who authored the petition for NTTC, lauded the decision.
“PHMSA’s determination recognizes that Congress purposely established uniform, nationwide standards to ensure the safe and secure transportation of hazardous materials and that state laws, like California’s, no matter how well intentioned, cannot interfere with the federal scheme,” Sharma said.
California has 20 days to file a reconsideration of the ruling, and 60 days to seek judicial review. NTTC encourages the state to recognize that PHMSA’s decision is consistent with federal law and accept it is the right way to promote safety. If California does appeal, the preemption decision will remain in force while the appeal is adjudicated.
“This determination marks a major victory for the entire tank truck industry,” said Dan Furth, NTTC president. “For years, we have argued that unnecessary delays in hazmat transportation compounds the risk to our carriers, our shippers, our professional drivers, and the public at large. All stakeholders win when safety is the foremost priority and I want to credit PHMSA for asserting its authority appropriately.”