The FMCSA said last week that it will consider waiving federal jurisdiction over meal and rest break laws in California and Washington. Some people were surprised. The FMCSA said in 2018 that it overrode state rules with its own power.
The American Trucking Associations asked for a choice to be made, and one was made. It was based on the FMCSA’s view that making rules more consistent would make truckers safer. Ray Martinez, who is in charge of the FMCSA, has said that safety is the most important thing to the group.
FMCSA’s Decision on California’s Meal and Rest Break Rules
Martinez elaborated on the reasoning in a Facebook video post, stating that during the public comment period, FMCSA heard directly from drivers, small business owners, and industry stakeholders. They expressed concerns that California’s meal and rest rules not only pose a safety risk but also lead to a loss in productivity and ultimately hurt American consumers.
Eleven California companies had asked the FMCSA for a similar preemption decision 10 years before Martinez’s decision, and the two decisions were different. The agency decided at that point that it didn’t have the power to make that choice.
FMCSA stated that the agency has no authority to preempt the California meal and rest break rules because they are not considered regulations on commercial motor vehicle safety under federal statute. The statute, in addition, does not permit the preemption of other state or local regulations solely based on their impact on commercial motor vehicle operations.
FMCSA’s Support for California Appliance Delivery Drivers
Three years later, a group of California appliance delivery drivers sued Penske Logistics, one of the companies that had asked for the 2008 decision. The case was thrown out of district court because the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 says that the federal government has the right to do what it wants.
In 2014, the FMCSA wrote a “friend of the court” brief in support of the drivers. In the end, the drivers won their case at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.
FMCSA stated in its brief that the agency has specialized expertise in the regulation of motor carriers and broad statutory authority to determine whether state laws addressing commercial motor vehicle safety should be preempted.
FMCSA’s Authority and Responsibility for Improving Safety
The agency possesses exceptional qualifications to evaluate the influence of state laws on the motor carrier industry as a whole, as well as on federal safety regulations specifically. It can be concluded that the agency’s views on the preemptive scope of the statute and federal regulations deserve significant deference based on these factors.
FMCSA is under pressure to show it is doing everything it can to improve safety. One way it could do this is by using its permission power, which comes from its federal override authority. This is because the number of truck crashes is going up and the National Roadway Safety Strategy has been put into place.
FMCSA Encourages Waiver Petitioners and Teamsters to Explore Options
FMCSA stated in its notice published in the Federal Register on Monday that the agency encourages waiver petitioners to include arguments that do not depend on a conclusion that the agency’s preemption determinations were erroneous.
A spokesman for the Teamsters told a freight news website that the union is “currently exploring our options” when it comes to asking for a waiver. This is because the Teamsters rejected the ATA’s 2018 plea and the FMCSA’s decisions on federal authority in California and Washington.
By letting permit requests go through, FMCSA is “moving in the right direction,” said Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien.
O’Brien stated that states should be allowed the freedom to protect motorists and workers by implementing stronger meal and rest break requirements for professional drivers. The prevention of tragedies is not limited to commercial vehicle operators; it extends to everyone who uses our highways.
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Overall, truck drivers might benefit from FMCSA meal and rest-break exemptions by taking more breaks and improving their working conditions. Lading Logistics is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the trucking industry. They offer a wide range of services, including:
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