ATA says fixing driver rest break would ensure uniform safety rules nationwide

March 2, 2016

American Trucking Associations leaders have called on Congress to reject efforts by organized labor and trial attorneys that would impose a patchwork of state scheduling rules on the nation’s truck driving community.

“A single set of consistent and fair regulations is essential to the trucking industry,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “Language currently being discussed by Congressional leaders would ensure that drivers operate under a consistent set of break rules, whether that driver is delivering a trailer full of water to Flint MI or picking up a load of avocados in Temecula CA. That’s what Congress sought to establish with a 1994 law, and recent interpretations of that law by the courts are threatening that consistency.”

Language in the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 made it clear states are not permitted to institute rules governing the trucking industry because Congress wanted the industry to operate under a single, uniform system from coast-to-coast rather than a confusing and inefficient patchwork of state laws. However, some states--notably California--a handful of courts, and aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys are refusing to faithfully uphold that goal of one country, one set of rules.

“If lawmakers do not address this overreach by the states and the courts, they will destroy the unified national rules that Congress intended trucking to operate under,” Graves said. “And moreover, if opponents of this provision succeed in blocking this common sense fix, it only will make an already difficult job unnecessarily complex.”

ATA also chided opponents of this measure for being deceptive in their characterization of the provision’s impacts.

“Federal regulators have said unequivocally that California’s break requirements are not safety rules, as critics have claimed,” said Richard Pianka, ATA’s acting general counsel. “In addition, contrary to the claims of the special interests lobbying against this provision, it will not allow carriers not to pay drivers for all their time. In fact, the legislation expressly requires that drivers being paid by the mile or load receive as much or more than they’d be entitled to if they were paid by the hour.”

Since the 1930s, the federal government has maintained a uniform national set of work and rest rules for the trucking industry that has been imperiled by recent court actions. ATA calls upon Congress to safeguard these important regulations.