The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is with fleet drivers and safety on this one.
The DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently granted a petition submitted by the American Trucking Associations (ATA) to preempt California’s Meal and Rest Break (MRB) rules, which are “confusing and duplicative,” ATA said, and differ from current federal hours-of-service regulations.
FMCSA said in a statement it “has determined that the MRB rules are laws on CMV (commercial motor vehicle) safety, that they are more stringent than the agency’s hours of service regulations, that they have no safety benefits that extend beyond those already provided by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations, that they are incompatible with the federal hours-of-service regulations, and that they cause an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.
“The California MRB rules, therefore, are preempted under 49 U.S.C. 31141(c).”
ATA quickly applauded the decision by FMCSA and DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, which it said reestablishes the federal government’s critical role in regulating interstate commerce.
“This is a victory for highway safety, not trial lawyers,” said Chris Spear, ATA president and CEO. “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 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 meal-and-rest break rules imposed by California, but primarily enforced via private lawsuits against motor carriers, on the grounds that a patchwork of rules related to driver hours of service harms safety, is in conflict with federal rules and causes “an unreasonable burden on interstate commerce.”
“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.”
Barry Pottle, ATA chairman and president and CEO of Pottle’s Transportation, called the decision a victory for drivers and fleets.
“For fleets like mine, knowing the rules will be the same for my drivers regardless of what state they’re delivering to is important,” Pottle said. “I’d like to thank Secretary Chao for taking this step to make our highways safer by simplifying the lives and schedules of America’s truck drivers, but also recognize the efforts and persistence of the ATA staff who successfully built bipartisan consensus around solving this issue for carriers across the country.”
Added Derrick Whittle, a driver with Cargo Transporters: “As a driver, being safe and well-rested is my primary concern, and having a single set of rules to follow whether I’m in California or Colorado makes it easier for me to do my job.”