FMCSA to Consider Rollbacks to Truck Driver Rest-Break Rules

FMCSA to Consider Rollbacks to Truck Driver Rest-Break Rules

States like California and Washington may demonstrate that their stricter rules improve driver safety. This could lead federal officials to reconsider their previous decision on limiting truck drivers’ weekly working hours to 40 and potentially grant waivers to these states.

California’s Meal and Rest Break (MRB) rules were overridden by federal law in a ruling on December 21, 2018. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced on Friday that it will consider waiver requests for that ruling. A similar ruling about Washington state’s MRB rules on November 17, 2020, will also be considered. Both of these choices were made by the government under Trump.

FMCSA to Consider Petitions for Waiver of California and Washington MRB Rules

The notice said petitions for waivers could be submitted anytime. FMCSA asks for petitions for waivers of California and Washington rulings to be submitted by November 13, 2023. The FMCSA publishes petitions for waivers and allows public comments on them.

Employers in California and Washington follow stricter MRB rules than government standards. California workers are entitled to a 30-minute dinner break if they work more than five hours. They are also entitled to another 30-minute meal break if they work 10 or more hours. Also, workers are given a 10-minute break for every four hours they work. Most of Washington’s rules are like these.

Teamsters Disagree with Washington Trucking Association’s Claim on MRB Rules

After eight hours of driving, drivers must take a 30-minute break, not on-duty time. However, the federal government’s hours-of-service rules will become more flexible for employers in September 2020. An on-duty or non-driving period will count as the required break.

The Teamsters disagreed with the Washington Trucking Association’s claim. They said the state’s MRB rules worsen safety by increasing the shortage of safe truck parking. They argued that drivers could spend more time searching for parking or parking in unsafe areas.

Teamsters and ATA Disagree on FMCSA’s Preemption Finding

The union said truck drivers face a threat. The threat arises from not taking rest breaks as allowed by federal law. The drivers fear consequences from their employers if they don’t finish a run on time or prioritize earning extra pay by pushing themselves.

When asked if they were going to ask FMCSA for permission, the Teamsters didn’t say right away.

The American Trucking Associations asked FMCSA to make a preemption finding. They think the agency’s recent move is bad for the flow of national freight and could cost companies money.

Chris Spear, the President and CEO of ATA, believes that having a singular, national standard of work rules for professional drivers is crucial for safety and the supply chain.

ATA and Scopelitis Transportation Consulting Support FMCSA’s Preemption of California and Washington MRB Rules

Rest breaks for drivers are already mandated by federal law. Unnecessary and duplicative state laws lack a safety basis. They are enforced through private lawsuits to extort the trucking industry. Opening the door to this spurious litigation once again would impair the safe and efficient movement of interstate goods.

ATA is fully prepared to oppose the effort that would result in a confusing patchwork of regulations. The Federation will leverage all of its resources to stop this in its tracks.

  1. Sean Garney, co-director of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, agreed with what ATA said.

Garney said that the FMCSA’s decision to override the Meal and Rest Break rules in California and Washington was good for business and safety, according to a Freight reporting website. National companies are not required to follow different hours of service rules in each state. This generally makes managing hours of service easier.

21 States Have Meal and Rest Break Laws

The National Conference of State Legislatures states that 21 states have rules about meal and rest break times. California and Washington are among these states.

States with meal and rest laws
New Hampshire
New York
North Dakota
Rhode Island
West Virginia

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2019

FMCSA Outlines Requirements for Waiver Bids

FMCSA has asked that all bids for waivers include the following:

  • The extent to which a state’s meal and rest break laws have affected the health and safety of truck drivers who transport goods within the state.
  • If the applicant plans to do anything to reduce or fix any effect, including if the enforcement of state meal and rest break laws for interstate property-carrying truck drivers will cause more trucks to park on the side of the road because there aren’t enough truck parking spots.
  • Whether the application plans to do anything to deal with or lessen the effect of a state’s regulation of meal and rest break rules on interstate truck drivers who carry goods, and if any such effect would weaken the national supply chain.

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